CLEVELAND — It’s been an ongoing debate for years: Is C.C. Sabathia a legitimate ace?
The answer this season has been a resounding “Yes.”
“I’m trying to,” said Sabathia, when asked if he had taken his game to another level. “I need to be that guy if this team is going to make the playoffs. I’m definitely trying to elevate my game, raise my game up. For us to make the playoffs, I’m going to have to be this type of pitcher, so, yeah.”
The numbers support his claim. Sabathia, who is 9-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 13 starts, entered Wednesday leading the American League in wins, while ranking second in innings (902/3), third in strikeouts (83) and 13th in ERA.
So does the opposition.
“We’ve faced C.C. now for seven years and, before this year, everyone looked at Sabathia as a thrower,” Royals designated hitter Mike Sweeney told reporters after Sabathia tossed a shutout to beat KC on Tuesday. “But the video we saw of him in his first few starts and the way he pitched tonight, he’s pitchin.’
“Before, he’d just come at you throwing 97 (mph) the first inning, throwing a hard slider and a change-up once in a while. But tonight he was pitchin’ — behind-in-the-count change-ups, 93 or 95 on the corners. He showed tonight he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
Indians manager Eric Wedge points to the 2005 season as a turning point for Sabathia, who has gone 30-13 with a 3.05 ERA in 52 starts since August of that year.
“When you look at the middle of ’05, that’s when he really took it upon himself to finish off that foundation to be the pitcher that he ultimately has been,” Wedge said.
Though he said Travis Hafner would play first base in National League cities, Wedge would not commit to Hafner manning the position in all three games of the team’s upcoming series in Cincinnati.
Hafner has not committed an error in four starts at first base. It’s at the plate where he’s lagging, entering Wednesday batting .267 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 55 games, while producing just one game with more than one extra-base hit.
Cleveland pitchers took batting practice Wednesday, with only Sabathia looking comfortable at the dish.
“There’s nothing really to speak of when it comes to the offensive side of our pitchers,” Wedge said. “C.C. sticks out when it comes to hitting. I try not to encourage that.”
Sabathia is a career .265 hitter
(9-for-34) with a homer and six RBIs.
Bring ’em back
More than 50 former Indians will be returning to Cleveland for a “Decade of the ’60s Reunion” on June 14-17, an event organized by former Tribe second baseman Vern Fuller (1964, 1966-70) and former clubhouse manager Billy Malone.
Tito Francona, Mudcat Grant, Sam McDowell, Jim Perry and Luis Tiant are some of the more decorated names expected to attend.
The Indians enjoyed little success during the decade, finishing no higher than third and doing so just once when they went 86-75 under manager Alvin Dark in 1968.
Triple-A Buffalo third baseman Andy Marte entered Wednesday batting .276 with two homers, three doubles and nine RBIs in eight games since being optioned to the minors.
Casey Blake entered Wednesday riding a 14-game hitting streak, with RBIs in seven of his last
12 games. He equaled his career best by extending the streak to
l Former Indians pitcher David Riske (1999-05) has been one of Kansas City’s most effective relievers, entering Wednesday with a 2.81 ERA and three saves in 26 appearances.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.