CLEVELAND — Though it hasn’t reached the level that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick took it to in videotaping his opponent’s sideline last Sunday, there is signal stealing going on in baseball.
The difference is that it’s an accepted practice that has been considered part of the game for some time.
“I can feel about 10 eyes on me when I’m giving signs, and I’m sure Skins (third base coach Joel Skinner) feels the same,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “I don’t get too caught up in that. If they want to spend all their time and energy (trying to steal signs), then go for it.”
Though Wedge didn’t say his team was in the sign-thieving business, the Indians have been accused of as much, back in 1999 during a Division Series matchup against Boston. Then-manager Jimy Williams questioned whether the Indians were using a center-field camera at Jacobs Field to steal his catcher’s signs.
“You always hear rumors in baseball,” said Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro. “I always figure it isn’t true. If you let it get in your head, it can become a negative.”
Wedge said a bigger problem than stealing signs is tipping pitches.
“But that’s up to us,” he said. “If our guy is tipping his pitches, he needs to make an adjustment. That’s baseball.”
Ryan Garko has been consistent at the plate (.295, 18 HRs, 57 RBIs) during his first full season in the majors, but it’s been his solid play at first base that has been the most surprising sight from the former catcher.
“Defensively, he’s been a pleasant surprise,” Wedge said. “He’s worked so hard to be a good first baseman, and you know what? He is a good first baseman.”
Garko had committed eight errors in 124 games through Thursday, and has clearly played better in the field as the season has progressed.
“I’m definitely more comfortable over there,” Garko said. “I feel like I’m making all the plays I should make.”
A Laffey matter
Wedge said fifth starter Aaron Laffey will keep his spot in the rotation and will be a candidate for the postseason roster, should the Indians qualify.
Since taking over for Cliff Lee, the 22-year-old left-hander has gone 3-1 with a 5.29 ERA in six starts.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Wedge said. “He’s still got a lot to learn, but he’s doing that.”
Who’s the man?
Lee and Jeremy Sowers are still the strongest candidates to start one of the games of a doubleheader in Seattle on Sept. 26, though Wedge would confirm nothing.
Lee has made two appearances out of the bullpen (three earned runs on six hits in two innings) since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, while Sowers is pitching for Double-A Akron in the Eastern League playoffs.
The game is the final makeup from the snowed-out, home-opening series (April 6-9).
Akron entered Friday on the brink of postseason elimination, trailing Trenton 2-0 in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series. The Aeros dropped the first two games, 5-3 and 3-2.
Sowers took the mound for Game 3 on Friday night, with first baseman Jordan Brown leading the way offensively, batting .407 with three homers and seven RBIs in six playoff games. Brown, a fourth-round pick in the 2005 draft, was the EL’s Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year.
Fausto Carmona (2.40) and C.C. Sabathia (2.49) entered Friday as the top two American League starting pitchers in second-half ERA.
• Professional wrestling personality Jerry “The King” Lawler was a guest of Travis Hafner’s, taking in batting practice and the game Friday night. A bobblehead of Hafner, a huge wrestling fan, will be passed out tonight at Jacobs Field, showing the designated hitter with a championship wrestling belt.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.