BOSTON – As was the case in the Division Series victory over the Yankees, Indians manager Eric Wedge said he is not considering pitching C.C. Sabathia on short rest in the ALCS, which would allow Cleveland’s ace to start Games 1, 4 and 7.
“There are always X factors involved and there are no absolutes, but right now, that’s not something we’re considering,” said Wedge, who plans on employing the same rotation of Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd that he used to beat the Yankees in four games.
That’s fine with his general manager Mark Shapiro, who supported Wedge’s decision to stick with Paul Byrd and not pitch Sabathia on three days rest against New York. It paid off when Byrd pitched well to beat the Yankees and clinch the series.
“Eric’s greatest assets are strength and consistency,” Shapiro said. “It’s great to see those appreciated on a broader level. But I also think it’s hard to truly appreciate how difficult that is, to be consistent over a 162-game season, with all the difficult emotional moments.”
Sabathia, who has played for Wedge the last five seasons of his seven-year career, has noticed a change in his manager.
“He’s more lenient, I guess,” Sabathia said. “He lets us get away with a little more as we get older. When we were a younger club he was on us all the time about little things, and over the years he’s learned to kind of back off and let us play.”
Though it’s the big payroll teams that attract most of the attention, it’s the small-to-mid market clubs that have got it done this season.
Of the four teams left in the playoffs, three of them – Colorado, Cleveland and Arizona — rank towards the bottom of the majors in terms of spending. The Indians have the largest payroll of the three at around $61 million, with the Rockies spending $54 million and the Diamondbacks spending $52 million.
“It says it can be done,” Shapiro said. “We knew it. But it takes a lot of things lining up right and a special effort from the entire organization. That’s how all three teams have done it.”
Boston’s payroll ($143 million) is the second-highest in the majors to the Yankees’ $189 million.
The Indians’ ALCS roster remained the same, but Boston made one move, dropping third catcher Kevin Cash and adding pitcher Tim Wakefield, who is scheduled to start Game 4 against Paul Byrd. Cleveland has until 10 a.m. today to alter its roster.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona also announced that Bobby Kielty would start in right field for Game 1, replacing big-name, free-agent acquisition J.D. Drew. Kielty is a lifetime .310
(9-for-29) hitter with four doubles and two homers against Sabathia.
Boston’s cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez has also had success against Sabathia and the Indians. He’s batting a career .571 (12-for-21) with three doubles and four homers off Sabathia, .357 (66-for-185) with 15 homers and 44 RBIs since leaving Cleveland after the 2000 season to sign a free-agent contract with Boston.
“He’s hit me,” Sabathia said. “I need to go out and try to make good pitches and get him out, plain and simple.”
From the Hart
John Hart is credited for reviving baseball in Cleveland as the general manager from 1991-2001, a span in which the Indians won six Central Division titles and two American League championships.
He’s also a pretty good front office talent evaluator.
Of the four general managers in the postseason, three — Shapiro, Colorado’s Dan O’Dowd and Arizona’s josh Byrnes — all served under Hart in Cleveland. Francona was also special assistant to Hart during the 2001 season — a year after he was fired as Phillies manager.
Something’s going to have to give between Cleveland pitchers and Boston’s hitters this ALCS. Red Sox hitters averaged 3.95 pitches per plate appearance during the regular season, while Carmona, Sabathia and Byrd ranked first, fourth and 13th, respectively, among AL starters in fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.40, 3.57, 3.67).
• Cleveland third baseman Casey Blake, who hit just .118
(2-for-17) with five strikeouts in the ALDS, is a lifetime .348 hitter with five homers and 12 RBIs at Fenway Park. Travis Hafner is a career .345 hitter in Boston.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.