CLEVELAND — After sounding extremely bitter for the majority of a 10-12 minute interview, in which he openly questioned a number of the Indians’ decisions concerning him, Cliff Lee wanted to make one thing clear at the end. He is not bitter.
Lee, a former 18-game winner and staple of the Indians’ rotation for the past three seasons, is back in a Cleveland uniform after being one of four players promoted from Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday. But the left-hander, who was banished to the minors after struggling to a
5-8 record and 6.38 ERA in 16 starts with the Indians, didn’t sound happy.
“Obviously (the demotion) was a surprise and a shock,” Lee said. “I felt like I was a big leaguer. I still do. Going to the minor leagues, I don’t think anyone is happy about that. It is what it is. I couldn’t argue with them and make them change their minds.
“I never thought I should’ve went to Triple-A, if that’s my call, but it wasn’t up to me. But I can understand why. The results weren’t there.”
Lee said the Indians share some of the blame for his struggles. He said at their request he began throwing his curveball and changeup more, getting away from what he perceives as his strength — the fastball. He said the positive results at Buffalo — 3.51 ERA in eight starts — came after he returned to his original approach.
The Indians seemed satisfied that Lee’s time in Buffalo was productive, nonetheless.
“He was working hard on what we wanted him to work on,” said manager Eric Wedge. “He handled himself like a pro.”
Still, Wedge reaffirmed that Lee would pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, with Aaron Laffey holding down his former spot in the rotation.
“I’ll try to make the adjustment and help the team the best I can,” said Lee, who only remembered pitching out of the bullpen twice on the collegiate level.
The season on the brink has caused Lee to question his future in Cleveland despite signing a
four-year contract extension worth $15 million in August of last year.
“I would say that’s a concern,” he said. “I thought I had a pretty set role, and now it’s not there anymore. I really don’t know. I thought I did about a month ago.”
In the end though, Lee wanted to make one thing certain. He is not bitter.
“I want to make it clear that I’m not here to be bitter, none of those stories,” he said. “I just want to win. If this is the role that helps the team win, then I’m happy to do it. I don’t want any negative vibe. I’m just trying to stay positive.”
Joining Lee as call-ups from Buffalo on Saturday were outfielder Ben Francisco, infielder Luis Rivas and reliever Mike Koplove.
Rivas is the only one of the three who has not appeared for the Indians this year, spending the entire season at Buffalo, where he hit .263 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in 105 games.
Koplove — 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA and 14 saves in 51 games for the Bisons — appeared in three games for Cleveland in late May, allowing two runs in four innings.
Francisco, whose first big league hit was a walk-off homer against the Devil Rays on June 29, is in his third stint with the Indians, batting .273 with three homers and seven RBIs in 17 games. He hit .318 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 95 games for Buffalo.
Wedge said the Indians would most likely wait until Buffalo’s season was complete, whether the Bisons made the playoffs or not, to add a couple more players.
That list is expected to include Jeremy Sowers, who, like Lee, began the season in Cleveland’s rotation before struggling and being demoted.
Sowers and Lee are options to start one of the games of a doubleheader in Seattle on Sept. 26 or to replace Laffey should he falter.
Disabled outfielder David Dellucci (hamstring surgery) took batting practice Saturday and has been doing light running, but has yet to tackle any fielding activities.
“I think our goal right now is to get me into a position where I can pinch hit,” said Dellucci, who has not played since June 19. “I know we’re running out of time. I’m doing the best I can. If I keep progressing the way I am, we’ve still got a month left. We may be pleasantly surprised.”
Dellucci, who is expected to face a live pitcher at Class A Mahoning Valley on Monday before joining the Indians during their upcoming 10-game road trip, is trying to make it back in time to serve as an option on a potential playoff roster.
He said a decision on whether he would begin a minor league rehab assignment would come during the road trip.
Buffalo is still alive in the International League wild-card race after beating Rochester (Twins) 10-7 on Friday behind a4-for-4 performance from outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, which included a homer, two doubles and three RBIs. The Bisons entered Saturday trailing Richmond (Braves) by 1½ games for the final playoff spot, with three to play.
• Double-A Akron’s Chuck Lofgren won his 12th game on Friday, allowing one unearned run on four hits through seven innings of the Aeros’ 4-2 victory over Binghamton (Mets). Akron, which clinched a wild-card berth on Thursday, entered Saturday with four regular-season games remaining.
• Class A Kinston’s Matt Whitney hit his 32nd homer — tops among all Indians minor leaguers — in a 12-4 victory over Winston-Salem on Friday. Kinston, the winners of the
first-half title and leaders of the second-half race, open the Southern Division playoffs against Salem (Houston) on Wednesday.
The Indians entered Saturday with a 12-3 record since Aug. 15, gaining 6½ games on the Tigers over the span.
• Cleveland’s starting pitchers entered Saturday with a sparkling 3.23 ERA over the last 35 games, but just a 15-11 record.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHO: Cleveland vs. Chicago
TIME: 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Westbrook (5-7, 4.38 ERA) vs. Contreras (7-16, 6.13)
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM