September 20, 2014

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Tribe leads in patience – Tribe Notes

CLEVELAND — Forget about the home runs, the trips around the bases, the doubles, walks and runs scored. The Cleveland Indians’ offense is among the game’s most productive in all those categories.
But it all starts from one place: the ability to take a pitch.
The Indians lead both the American and National Leagues in having drawn 15,774 pitches, which equates to 4.51 pitches per at-bat. That edges out the Boston Red Sox (4.48), New York Yankees (4.43), Philadelphia Phillies (4.40) and Colorado Rockies (4.38).
Three Indians are among the game’s stingiest hitters, with Grady Sizemore (1,999), Casey Blake (1,851) and Travis Hafner (1,763) ranking first, fifth and ninth, respectively in number of pitches seen.
Sizemore sees an average of 4.99 pitches per plate appearance, while Hafner drags it out to 5.05.
Indians manager Eric Wedge says longer at-bats are merely the byproduct of the organization’s overall emphasis on patience.
“It’s more an end result than it is something we’re trying to do,” said Wedge. “It’s a product of our approach. You don’t go up there trying to take pitches or get walks. But you do go up there with a plan. You try to get a better pitch to hit and put yourself in better position to be in a hitter’s count.”
Smoking aces
C.C. Sabathia’s days as the unquestioned ace of the Indians’ staff might be over — at least until Fausto Carmona comes back down to earth.
Carmona’s string of dominance continued Wednesday in an eight-inning gem in which he shut down the Red Sox on four hits in a 1-0 victory.
Since giving up eight runs in a one-inning stint against the Oakland A’s on June 27, Carmona has been practically unhittable. In his past five starts, Carmona is 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA. He also is striking out more batters — 7.9 per nine innings since June 27, compared with 4.5 before then.
Carmona adjusted his pitching repertoire following the A’s bash by relying less exclusively on his sinker. Rather, he is mixing in four-seam fastballs, sliders and change-ups to keep batters off-balance.
Now the Indians might have a friendly rivalry on their hands with Sabathia and Carmona trying to match outings.
“I love that,” said Wedge. “It’s very healthy, that silent competition with each other. They’re trying to one-up the next guy. It can only be a positive.”
Frankly speaking
Franklin Gutierrez made his first entry into the team record books by becoming the first player in Indians history to hit deciding home runs in two 1-0 victories in the same season.
His first came against the Kansas City Royals on June 5, followed by Wednesday’s solo shot off Red Sox fireballer Josh Beckett.
The last major leaguers to hit two or more homers in 1-0 games in the same season was in 2001, when Gary Sheffield accomplished it three times and Bret Boone did it twice.
Wheeler, dealer
There is less than a week until Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline and the Indians are believed to be hitting the phones hard to bring in potential reinforcements.
The biggest names on the market are Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, and Chicago White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye and first baseman Paul Konerko, along with potential bullpen options in Rangers closer Eric Gagne and Kansas City Royals closer Octavio Dotel.
“I’d say we’re going to be as aggressive as we can,” said Wedge. “I get a sense that this will probably play out to the final couple of days. If we didn’t do something, it wouldn’t be for a lack of effort or not trying to kick every tire or turn over every stone.”
Turning the corner
Indians left-handed prospect Jeremy Sowers just might be turning the corner on his recent struggles after throwing five impressive innings Wednesday for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
It marks the second straight outing in which Sowers has excelled, after starting the season with the Indians by going 1-6 with a 6.63 ERA. He was eventually demoted on June 10.
“He’s starting to figure things out,” said Wedge. “Sometimes it takes time. A lot of players and a lot of pitchers go through this.”
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or palpern@chroniclet.com.