Jeremy Sowers pitched well in his first major league season in 2006, but last year was 1-6 before being sent to the minors.
David J. Phillip / AP Enlarge
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - While his teammates scanned newspapers, watched mindless TV shows or horsed around in Cleveland's clubhouse, pitcher Jeremy Sowers sat in front of his locker reading Alan Greenspan's autobiography.
The writings of the former Federal Reserve chairman aren't exactly your standard major league fare, but then again, Sowers isn't your average player.
"I've seen him reading political books," Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said. "He pays a lot of attention to things outside baseball.
"He's very intelligent."
Sowers actually started on Greenspan's book last season. This spring, he's determined to finish it.
"I like reading things I can apply," said the soft spoken left-hander, who graduated from Vanderbilt in 2005 with a political science degree and is intrigued by the bespectacled Greenspan. "It's interesting to read about all of his experiences."
While catching up on one of his hobbies, Sowers' mind is focused on his pitching this spring.
The 24-year-old is hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2007. Penciled into the starting rotation at camp a year ago, Cleveland's No. 1 draft pick in 2004 spent most of the season in the minors and is now fighting for a roster spot.
Instead of treating his rocky season as a negative, Sowers is trying to make the most of it.
"Even though you don't want to pitch bad, that was my best learning year I've ever had," he said. "I think if I'm beset with adversity again, I'll have a much better idea of how to handle it or approach how to get out of it."
Sowers pitched poorly and couldn't recover. He was 1-6 with a 6.93 ERA in 12 starts before being sent to Triple-A Buffalo on June 10. His only victory came when he held Kansas City to one run in seven innings on May 24.
The pitcher who won seven games and pitched two shutouts for the Indians the previous season after being called up in June, saw his numbers and his psyche take a beating.
"It was a downward spiral," Sowers said. "Good pitching breeds confidence and bad pitching breeds a lack of confidence."
Willis, who pitched in the majors for parts of 12 seasons, said Sowers' struggles were not unusual.
"Sooner or later, every pitcher goes through a stretch like that, but in his case, it didn't happen to him until he was in the big leagues," Willis said.
"With most guys, it happens at some point before he gets to the majors."
Once Sowers, who relies on location and keeping hitters off-balance, started pitching poorly, he lost his aggressiveness.
"Instead of pitching to get hitters out, I was pitching not to get hit," Sowers said.
Initially, the trip to Buffalo, where he was 9-1 with a 1.39 ERA before getting the call to the majors in 2006, produced the same results he had with the Indians. He started 0-4 with the Bisons before posting a 4-1 mark with a 2.95 ERA over his final nine starts.
He was called up to pitch in a doubleheader in Seattle on Sept. 26 and threw five shutout innings.
"I was grateful to get that chance to come back and pitch in a game," he said.
Sowers is battling two other left-handers, Cliff Lee and Aaron Laffey, for the No. 5 spot.
"The decision of where I'll be pitching is out of my hands," he said. "I want to show I'm the same pitcher who was successful a couple of years ago.
"I don't have a defined location of where I'm going to go, but that doesn't change my approach of how I'm getting ready for the season."
NOTES: Manager Eric Wedge was back in camp following his son's birth. ... Right-hander Jorge Julio, who is having visa problems in Venezuela, is the only player who hasn't reported. ... Right-hander Adam Miller, the Indians' top pitching prospect, has a blister on his right middle finger and won't throw off the mound for a couple days. Miller is about a week behind the other pitchers after straining the finger in the Arizona Fall League. ... Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro met with each position player yesterday. ... The first full-squad workout is today.