Long-relief stint preserves ’pen
CLEVELAND — It’s the least glamorous job on a pitching staff. But when the early innings go awry, a long reliever suddenly becomes a vital piece of the bigger picture.
When Jason Stanford stepped onto the pitching rubber Wednesday against the Oakland A’s, there were runners on second and third, with nobody out, and the Indians were trailing 6-0.
Stanford hardly dominated in his first long-relief outing of the year. He gave up nine hits and walked three batters.
But his importance was in the fact that he pitched
On a night when Fausto Carmona couldn’t get an out in the second inning before getting the hook, Stanford saved the bullpen — if not for the night, then certainly for another day.
“That’s the job of a long reliever,” said Stanford, who began the season at Triple-A Buffalo. “All you’re trying to do is go deep enough into the game so that the bullpen isn’t exhausted for the next few games. You need to save those arms.”
Stanford’s career with the Indians has been plagued by injuries. He essentially lost three years of development due to elbow problems from 2004 through the first half of 2006.
The Indians asked Stanford to make two emergency starts this season. He outdueled Florida Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis on June 14 in what was his first major league appearance since 2004, then lost to the Philadelphia Phillies on June 19.
Stanford yearns to become a full-time starter, but for now he’s relegated to long relief.
His performance Wednes-day night proved to be a life-saver for the Indians, who had to play the A’s again at noon Thursday.
“If Jason Stanford doesn’t do a good job for us,” Wedge said, “we probably have to (make a roster move), bullpen-wise. He really stepped up for us.”
Barfield moving up
Second baseman Josh Barfield suggests that too much is made of moving from one league to another.
“It’s pretty much the same because baseball’s baseball,” said Barfield, who was traded on
Nov. 8 from the San Diego Padres to the Indians for minor leaguers Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andrew Brown.
“The only thing that’s different is getting to know pitchers and how they throw and attack you. But to me, it’s still the same. People make too much of it.”
Barfield certainly struggled in his first month in the American League. He was hitting just .117 as of April 26. In the 57 games since, however, he’s raised his average to .263. In June alone, Barfield’s hitting .326 with 10 RBIs in 24 games.
The Indians washed their hands of relief pitcher Roberto Hernandez on Thursday, releasing the 42-year-old right-hander after he cleared waivers.
The club had designated Hernandez for assignment on June 30 and had 10 days to trade, release or waive him.
Hernandez was signed by the Indians during the offseason, less for his arm than for the veteran grit he could bring to a beleaguered bullpen sorely in need of poise. Hernandez had a 3-1 record in Cleveland, but closer inspection reveals just how much he struggled.
He allowed a staggering 50 base runners in 26 innings, along with a bloated 6.23 ERA.
The Indians are responsible for the remainder of his $3.3 million salary this year and a $200,000 buyout of a $3.7 million team option for 2008.
Hernandez ranks 11th on the
all-time saves list with 326. He’s pitched for nine major league teams since being called up in 1991 by the Chicago White Sox and has a 67-69 record and a
Pronk pact in works?
According to WTAM 1100-AM, the Indians flagship station, negotiations between the Tribe and Travis Hafner on a new contract have heated up and a deal could be done within several weeks.
The two sides had agreed in early April to halt negotiations until after the season.
Over the last 21 games, going back to June 6, the Indians bullpen has had an ERA of 3.00. In 60 innings during that stretch, Cleveland’s relievers have allowed 57 hits and 20 earned runs.
That’s a remarkable turnaround from a year ago, when the Indians already had 11 blown saves.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or email@example.com.