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Published: Thursday, 2/12/2009

Indians' Lewis ready for start of 2009 season

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Right-hander Jensen Lewis had a roller-coaster 2008 season for the Indians and their Triple-A team in Buffalo, but at the end he was the Tribe's closer and wound up with 13 saves. Right-hander Jensen Lewis had a roller-coaster 2008 season for the Indians and their Triple-A team in Buffalo, but at the end he was the Tribe's closer and wound up with 13 saves.
TONY DEJAK / AP Enlarge

If the 2008 season for Jensen Lewis were transformed into a roller-coaster ride, it certainly would be a thriller.

"I think last season I experienced everything a player possibly could, for better or for worse," Lewis said at the Indians' local fan festival held in late January. "I think it was for the better."

At the start it looked as if it were headed for the worst, even though it began with the 24-year-old right-hander making his first opening day roster. That's because in June he was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.

"Toledo was the first place I went after I was sent down," Lewis said. "It was kind of a reality check for me. I understood what it took to be a major leaguer, so it was a time to reflect and to figure out what it took to get back [to the major leagues]."

Lewis certainly found himself with the Bisons, allowing just two hits and no earned runs in his final six innings with that club to earn a promotion back to the big leagues around the All-Star break.

"I think I got back to things that got me [to the big leagues] in 2007," Lewis said. "Things like having no fear, approaching every hitter with a lot of confidence, trying not to do too much and believing in my stuff.

"I think [early on] I was trying to do some things that were outside of my comfort zone. Being sent down was a reality check, and I think it was a blessing in disguise. I think it also gives me positive momentum heading back into this year."

While Lewis struggled in the first month of his return, he found himself in August and his fortunes skyrocketed. He earned his first save with the Tribe on Aug. 8 in Toronto and held onto the closer's role for the rest of the season, finishing with 13 saves.

"I felt fortunate that, when I was sent down, the team thought enough of me to work on some things, get myself right, then call me back up," Lewis said. "Then to have such a high-profile role [as the closer], and have success on top of it. To end the year the way I did, I couldn't have asked for anything better."

The roller-coaster ride seemed to continue in the offseason as Lewis saw Cleveland sign right-hander Kerry Wood to a two-year, $20.5 million contract to take over as closer. But if Lewis is upset or unhappy about the move, he isn't showing it.

"Kerry is our guy in the ninth, and that's awesome because he makes us a better team," Lewis said. "It makes for a better bullpen, there's no doubt about that.

"I'm approaching things as if I'm the second closer on the team. If he needs a day off, I can jump in there and there's no drop. If something happens and he gets hurt, I have the experience and I think the team would feel confident with me in that role."

Lewis said both he and the team enter the 2009 season in the same situation: the only pressure either feels is the pressure they put on themselves.

"I think internally we understand what we're capable of," Lewis said. "We won't have any outside pressure, because we'll put enough pressure on ourselves to reach the levels we expect reach.

"I think we're capable of anything we put our minds to."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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