November 24, 2014

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So what gives with lefties? – Tribe Notes

CLEVELAND — They make up almost half of the Indians’ starting rotation and have accounted for nearly the same amount of the team’s losses.
Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers, the left-handed pitchers,  have been the odd men out in an otherwise sparkling rotation, combining to post a 3-9 record and 6.52 ERA over 18 starts, while allowing 71 earned runs on a whopping 121 hits through 98 innings.
So, what gives?
“Cliff’s issue is more of a command of the fastball issue,” said pitching coach Carl Willis. “He can only be effective with all his pitches if he can throw his fastball in-and-out.
“Once Cliff regains command of his fastball, he’ll be able to use all his pitches better.
“Jeremy is not getting the right action on his pitches because he’s not quite finishing them.
“When he doesn’t finish his pitches, he doesn’t get the same life on his fastball, the same depth on his breaking ball and the same fade on his changeup.”
Lee (2-3, 6.35) missed nearly all of spring training with an abdominal issue, joining the rotation on May 3.
He complained last year about making good pitches that hitters continuously fouled off, and he’s doing the same this season.
“That’s when he needs to understand he needs to do something different,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge. “He needs to make adjustments.
“Is he stubborn? Yeah, he’s stubborn. That’s part of his competitiveness. He’s always been confident and he’s always been a great competitor. Now it’s just him making the adjustments he has to make.”
While it might not be an issue with Lee, it is with Sowers, who admitted to being a bit shaken after his last outing.
“It’s an aggressive mindset type of thing,” Willis said. “When you struggle to make perfect pitches, you tend to get yourself in disadvantageous counts.
“You need to regain confidence in order to go right at guys.”
Body by Jake
Disabled Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook (strained abdominal) threw a bullpen session and is scheduled to make his second rehab start Friday, this time with Double-A Akron.
Wedge said Westbrook, who pitched Tuesday for Triple-A Buffalo, will require “a couple more” rehab outings in an effort to get his pitch count up to 90 before he rejoins the Indians.
Westbrook’s rehab debut Friday was a rough one, as he allowed five runs on seven hits in just 11/3 innings.
“Physically, I was fine,” Westbrook said. “I didn’t really care how I performed. I feel great. Now I’ve got to get better at getting guys out.”
Calling All-Stars
If All-Star balloting ended today, the Indians would have to rely on Jim Leyland, the manager of the defending American League champion Tigers, for their all-star representative(s).
No Indians player leads fan balloting, with Travis Hafner ranking fourth at first base, Victor Martinez ranking fifth at catcher and Grady Sizemore sixth in the outfield.  
Call it the blues
The Indians wore blue tops at home for the first time since the 2001 season — coincidentally, the last time the team qualified for the postseason.
Players requested the uniform change and general manager Mark Shapiro signed off, with a team official indicating the style ensemble could appear on a more regular basis at Jacobs Field.  
Celebrity skipper
Wedge weighed in on Braves Double-A manager Phillip Wellman’s much-publicized weekend tantrum, which featured Wellman crawling to the mound on all fours.
“It was creative. Give him a 10 for creativity,” Wedge said.
Though it was entertaining, Wedge doesn’t see himself ever duplicating his antics.
“I get as hot as anyone, but I try to work hard to control myself,” he said.
Roundin’ third
Victor Martinez entered Tuesday at No. 3 in the majors behind Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez (52) and Houston’s Carlos Lee (52) with 50 RBIs. His eight straight games with an RBI (May 24-June 1) is the fourth longest streak in club history.
l The Indians entered Tuesday batting .288 and averaging 6.35 runs per game at home, as opposed to .268 and 5.2 on the road.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7135 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com