08/25/2004 8:16 PM ET
Notes: GM defends C.C.
Shapiro says pitcher's growing pains to be expected
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- C.C. Sabathia stood in the visitor's clubhouse in the Metrodome and blamed himself Sunday for not being able to stop the Tribe's losing streak.
|Mark Shapiro cautions critics of C.C. Sabathia to remember many pitchers don't reach true ace status until they're 30. (Chris O'Meara/AP)
He thought it was his responsibility, as the designated ace of the Indians pitching staff, to step forward, take on tough assignments and stop an opponent cold. But Sabathia didn't do that in his outing against the Twins, which raised questions among some Sabathia critics about his fitness for the role of ace.
General manager Mark Shapiro, however, said the Sabathia critics were being unfair.
"I still feel that all the makings are there for him to be a legitimate No. 1 starter," Shapiro said of Sabathia. "But we recognize that the age that most of those guys reach that level is usually 30 years old."
So at 24, Sabathia's prime years are ahead of him, and Shapiro said the hard-throwing left-hander is well on his way to cementing his title as a No. 1.
He urged people to look at what guys like Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling were doing at 23 or 24 years old, and he thought Sabathia's work was either on par with or better than theirs.
"This guy has already won more games at that level than almost any pitcher in the modern game," Shapiro said. "So I caution to judge anything based on the last couple of weeks. We're asking a lot of him, and I still feel like he's a special talent."
At 9-8 with a 4.17 ERA, Sabathia hasn't, in his own assessment, lived up to the reputation that accompanies the title of staff No. 1, and he will need to pitch like a No. 1 as the Tribe struggles to stay in the AL Central race.
"Are you disappointed when a guy of that ability doesn't win? Shapiro asked. "Yeah, he's our No. 1 starter, so we're asking him to do that."
Sabathia has stated time and again that he's accepted that role. He also said, as he stood and poured blame on himself in Minneapolis, that he needed to pitch better. He needed to win ballgames when the Indians need him to most.
That certainly will be in his next start, which is this weekend against the White Sox. With the pennant race getting away from the Tribe, it could use its ace to pitch, well, like an ace.
Time change: ESPN has picked up the Sept. 5 game against the Angels. Its decision to telecast the game pushes the start time from 1:05 p.m. ET to 8:05 p.m. The Indians leave after that ballgame for Seattle, where they will play the Mariners on Monday night.
Here's the question: Can you name the position player who has made the AL All-Star team the most times as an Indian? (See answer below.)
Quotable: "This is not the time of year you're looking for moral victories, but I'm pleased with the way we played the game the last couple nights." -- manager Eric Wedge, before the Tribe played the Yankees on Wednesday
Did you know: When Dennis Martinez started the second game of the 1995 World Series for the Tribe, he set a Major League record for the longest time between his first and second starts in a World Series. His first World Series was 16 years earlier with the Orioles. Another former Indians pitcher, Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, had held the record. Carlton had gone 13 seasons between his first and second World Series starts.
The numbers game: Their recent struggles notwithstanding, the Indians have displayed a surprising amount of offensive punch this season. Here's a look at some of their statistical achievements this season:
The Indians rank second in the Majors in runs scored with 684, a total of 148 more runs scored than last season after 127 games (684 vs. 536).
The Indians are hitting .279 (1,248-for-4,476) as a team (fifth-best in AL) and have a .354 on-base percentage, which is second in the league.
The Indians are third in the league in walks drawn at 472, up from 379 last year at this time.
The Indians are on pace to score 878 runs. They scored 699 runs in 2003.
Their leadoff hitters are hitting .307 (169-for-550) with 96 runs scored, 21 homers and 74 RBIs with an on-base percentage of .382.
Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez both have more RBIs now than Jody Gerut did all of last season. Hafner has 91; Martinez, 93. Casey Blake (65) and Matt Lawton (61) are also on pace to beat Gerut's 2003 RBI total.
Seven Indians, a league-high total, have 50 or more RBIs, not counting Josh Phelps. The seven are Martinez, Hafner, Blake, Lawton, Ben Broussard, Ronnie Belliard and Coco Crisp. The Tribe has six players with 10 or more homers, not counting Phelps.
Belliard leads the Majors in doubles with 43.
Tribe tidbits: Bob Wickman suffered his first back-to-back losses Tuesday night since April 9 and 11 of 1998.
... Indians fans can buy single-game tickets through the Internet at www.clevelandindians.com, at the Jacobs Field box office, at the seven Cleveland Indians Team Shops in Northeast Ohio or through the Tickets.com phone center (1-866-48-TRIBE). ... The Indians have hit 57 of their 96 homers since the All-Star break. ... The Indians are 22-15 in one-run games. ... Lou Merloni is making progress in his rehab. He's at Class A Mahoning Valley where he is a DH. Wedge did not predict when Merloni would be back on the Indians roster, but he probably won't return until after the rosters are expanded Sept. 1. ... At Triple-A Buffalo, Ryan Ludwick is swinging a red-hot bat. In his last nine games, Ludwick is hitting .419 with five homers and 14 RBIs for the Bisons, who boast the best record in the International League. ... The Tribe's nine-game losing streak is the longest since 1979.
On this date: In 1985, Mets right-hander Dwight Gooden, who would later play for the Tribe, became the youngest pitcher in Major League history (20 years, nine months and nine days) to win 20 games in one season. Hall of Famer Bob Feller had been the youngest. Feller was a month older when he accomplished the feat in 1939.
And here's the answer: Actually, three Indians share the record, which is seven times. The three are shortstop Lou Boudreau, third baseman Ken Keltner and outfielder Larry Doby.
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.