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Published: Sunday, 6/3/2007

Tigers' Leyland sold on Tribe

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit's hot-hitting Magglio Ordonez admires his two-run homer off Cleveland starter Cliff Lee in the second inning. Detroit's hot-hitting Magglio Ordonez admires his two-run homer off Cleveland starter Cliff Lee in the second inning.
JEFF GLIDDEN / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND - Count Detroit manager Jim Leyland as a fan of the Cleveland Indians.

Leyland's opinion is understandable. Not only did the Indians hold a 4 1/2 game lead in the AL Central going into last night, they also had a 5-0 record against Detroit going into their game.

Cleveland's offense scored 41 runs in the five games, which include a three-game sweep at Comerica Park last weekend and winning the first two games of this series.

"I thought their offense was good last year, but we made better pitches," Leyland said. "If you make bad pitches, you'll get hit, especially to a good hitting team like this."

While Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez get most of the credit for the Indians' success offensively, Leyland also has praise for other players.

"I think [Jhonny]Peralta looks like a totally different player this year," Leyland said. "He's moving better and hitting better. I think they made a hell of a pickup when they got [Josh] Barfield. He's a good, young player. I know he's looked at as a fill-in type guy, but I think [Casey] Blake is one of the toughest, most hard-nosed players in the league."

Leyland believes the Indians will be a factor in the division race all season.

"I think they're a very good team," he said. "I'm very impressed with them."

BIG COMEBACK: Cleveland manager Eric Wedge definitely thought the momentum was on the Indians' side as they rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to win Friday night's game, 12-11.

"You can't assume anything, but there's something to be said about momentum when you're trying to come back, especially when you have the last at-bat," he said.

The Indians have been on both sides of such rallies this season. Closer Joe Borowski blew a four-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning in Yankee Stadium on April 19.

"When you're in that situation, you're looking for anything to help you defend that lead," he said. "You have to work hard to stay positive and think good thoughts."

THE PLACE IS JUMPING: While the Indians and Tigers were playing at Jacobs Field, the Cavaliers and Pistons were meeting in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals next door at Quicken Loans Arena. Downtown streets were crowded with pedestrians by 3 p.m. and the plaza between the ballpark and arena was filled with fans enjoying the festivities.

WESTBROOK UPDATE: Right-hander Jake Westbrook (strained left abdominal) will make another minor league start on Wednesday as part of his rehabilitation assignment, Wedge said.

"He'll throw 65 to 70 pitches," Wedge said. "We'll hold off [on the next step] until after that."

Westbrook will have to bounce back from a rough outing Friday night when he allowed five runs and seven hits in 11/3 innings during a rehab start for Triple-A Buffalo.

PITCH COUNT WATCH: After Fausto Carmona threw 121 pitches in a complete game win over Minnesota on May 17, Wedge said they would monitor the right-hander's pitch count closely. Carmona threw 70 pitches in six innings against Kansas City in his next start and 91 in six innings Friday night.

"We're definitely keeping an eye on that," Wedge said. "He had to work pretty hard (Friday). We didn't want to send him back out there and have him end up with 110."

STILL STRUGGLING: Right-hander Fernando Cabrera's problems continued Friday night. He allowed two runs, a hit, three walks and struck out three in 12/3 innings. Cabrera has allowed 11 walks in his last 42/3 innings and five home runs in his last 52/3 innings.

DRAFT TALK: The Indians have the 13th pick in the first round of the draft, which begins Thursday. Thanks to signing outfielder David Dellucci and reliever Roberto Hernandez, the Indians lost their second and third round picks.

"This draft presents a challenge from a lot of standpoints for us," John Mirabelli, the Indians' assistant general manager/scouting operations. "We pick at No. 13 overall, then don't have anything until No. 137. With that big of a gap it puts more pressure on getting it right. The only chance of making an impact is to be aggressive. You can go conservative, but if you want to make a splash, you have to be creative."

Mirabelli went on to say that this draft is unusual because of a lack of collegiate right-handers. Ordinarily, they are quite plentiful.

"The strength of this draft is high school position players," he said. "And of course, high schoolers are tougher to project."



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