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Published: Saturday, 4/15/2006

2 looks at division play

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT There are two schools of thought around baseball regarding the importance of division games.

One side contends that, since each team in the American League s Central Division will play each division rival 19 times, those 76 division games are more important than games outside the division.

That s the feeling of Cleveland manager Eric Wedge.

There s always more of an emphasis on games in your division because you play those teams so much, he said. You get to be so familiar with those teams, and it s such a big part of your overall record. I think there s always going to be an emphasis, now more than ever with the amount of games you play in the division.

Wedge said the games take on added significance when you consider the competitive nature of the division.

I ve said all winter that the Central Division is one of the better divisions in baseball, he said. I think all of the teams did a good job of going out and working to get better. There are a lot of good young players in the division, and a lot of proven veterans players in the division.

You put all that together and you have good clubs.

The other side of the argument states that, since every team plays 162 games, too much focus on division opponents may mean insufficient focus on the rest of the schedule.

At least that s the feeling of Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

I think you make a mistake if you put too much emphasis on games in the division, Leyland said. I know it s common knowledge that if you want to win it, you want to win the division. But I think you stress that too much.

I think it s better if you play each team as they come along. You have to play your games one at a time.

Leyland said losing three times to the White Sox, while disappointing, certainly isn t crippling to his team s chances to win the division.

OK, we lost [three times], he said. But in actuality we were in all three games, and we probably shouldn t have been in [Thursday]. I don t take comfort in that, but at the same time we did OK.

After last night s games the Indians are 5-2 in the division while Detroit is 3-3.

FIELD PROMOTION: Cleveland will promote RHP Fausto Carmona from Triple-A Buffalo to start today s game in Detroit. Carmona was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts for the Bisons, allowing eight hits and one walk while fanning nine in 10 innings.

SHELTON S SUPER START: It took Chris Shelton just nine games to reach seven home runs. David Vincent, who tracks major league home run statistics, said Shelton tied four other players as the second-fastest to reach seven homers to start a season.

Dave Kingman, Willie Mays, Larry Walker and Luis Gonzalez also hit seven homers in nine games to start a season. The only players to reach seven homers faster, according to Vincent, is Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who hit seven homers in seven games on his way to 38 in 1976.

If someone asked me if I was surprised that Chris Shelton had seven homers in nine games, I d tell them I would be surprised even if Barry Bonds had seven homers in nine games, Leyland said. That s almost a home run a game. That would surprise me from anyone. That would surprise me from Babe Ruth.

INJURY UPDATES: Wedge said LHP C.C. Sabathia is on schedule with the rehab of his strained right abdominal muscle. He s feeling good, and his arm strength is good, Wedge said. He threw 120 feet [yesterday], and we ll get him on a mound in the next couple of days and take it from there. Dmitri Young left yesterday s game after suffering a strained right quadriceps while running the bases in the sixth. His status is uncertain for today s game.



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