Notes: Cream rises to top of 'pen
Wedge targets reliable relievers in crucial situations
KANSAS CITY -- The Indians followed a familiar pattern on Thursday against the Tigers. After starter Jake Westbrook departed, manager Eric Wedge deployed his three favorite relievers -- Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and closer Joe Borowski -- to finish the game.
The trio has been oft-used throughout August, combining for 34 innings this month. Cleveland's other relievers, Edward Mujica, Jensen Lewis, Aaron Fultz and Tom Mastny, have tossed just 18 2/3 innings this month.
Wedge has used at least one of his three primary relievers in eight of the team's past nine games. All three pitchers have thrown in four of those contests, including the past two.
Wedge has consistently seen strong performances from Perez (1.83 ERA), Betancourt (1.50) and Borowski (36 saves), but may need to incorporate other relievers into some high-pressure roles.
"We need to be able to use our other guys in different situations, whether we are down by a couple and trying to stay in it, or up by four or more late in the game," Wedge said. "We will keep trying guys and working them to how we see fit. There are certain games that we might play closer to the vest, depending on where we are at and who is available."
With every game critical for the American League Central-leading Indians, the team will continue to explore all options of finding solutions. Wedge said Cleveland hasn't found anyone on the waiver wire.
"If there is someone out there who we think can help us, I know our guys can pull the trigger," he said.
Cleveland has also explored options within the organization, including promoting a pitcher from Triple-A Buffalo.
"We had a meeting today about September callups, and we are going to probably get together again next week and make our decision," Wedge said.
Several relievers have thrown well for the Bisons, including Mike Koplove (1.84 ERA) and Matt Miller (3.21). Scott Elarton could also present an intriguing option. Released by the Royals in July, Elarton may be resurrecting his career in Buffalo in posting a 1.64 ERA in seven games.
"We will have to see," Wedge said. "If we felt like we had a slam dunk, he would be here already. We will see if someone steps up."
No problems with Borowski: Borowski saved Thursday's win over the Tigers, but allowed a run and dodged some potential trouble. The outing continued an inconsistent stretch for the Indians' closer.
In his last eight games, Borowski has a 0-1 record and a 10.29 ERA with five saves. Two of his five blown saves have come in those eight appearances.
"He is still the same guy," Wedge said. "He has done a great job in the closer role for us. It's never an easy role, but the best thing about being a closer is it's the bottom line. It's a bottom line role. Either you do it, or you don't. And that's all that matters. Not too many parts in that game where you can see that."
Lineup switch: The Indians moved Grady Sizemore back to the No. 3 spot, and batted Kenny Lofton leadoff against right-hander Zack Greinke on Friday. Against Tigers left-hander Nate Robertson on Thursday, Sizemore hit leadoff for the first time since Aug 12.
Wedge will continue to tweak the lineup on a day-to-day basis. In August, Cleveland stands 12th in the American League in runs scored and on-base plus slugging percentage.
"I am still playing this lineup day-to-day right now," Wedge said. "It's going to be tough to be 100 percent sold on something until we can start stringing the days together. That's what you have to do. Once we do that, we can see what works."
Minor Leaguer suspended: Juan Valdes, the Indians' fifth-round pick in 2003's First-Year Player Draft, was suspended for using a performance-enhancing substance. Valdes, an outfielder and native of Puerto Rico, will start his 50-game suspension on Friday.
Valdes was batting .319 with four homers and 26 RBI in 119 at-bats for Class A Mahoning Valley, a team in the New York Penn League.
Wedge addresses Bell: Royals manager Buddy Bell is stepping down at the end of the season to spend more time with his family. Wedge, a close friend of Bell's, has supported the decision.
"One thing about Buddy -- with the decisions he makes, he always does it for the right reasons and he is always true to himself and his family, and true to the game as well," Wedge said. "I have as much respect [for Bell] -- if not more respect -- [than] for anyone in the game."
"He does things for the right reasons, and he always does it in a very unselfish manner."
Tribe tidbits: Cleveland needs to make a roster move when Aaron Laffey pitches on Saturday, but Wedge remained mum on the corresponding player. ... The Indians' 2 1/2-game lead over the Tigers is Cleveland's largest since they had a three-game advantage on July 3. ... No Indians player with at least 30 at-bats is batting over .300 this month. ... Former Indian Bob Wickman was released by the Braves on Friday. ... Because of a possible storm, the Indians moved up their batting practice time and hit at about 4:15 p.m.
Down on the farm: Scott Lewis (3.61 ERA) worked six innings of one-run ball in Double-A Akron's 9-6 win over Reading. Lewis struck out eight and walked just one. Michael Aubrey went 3-for-3 with two homers, three runs scored, three RBI and two walks in the victory. ... Class A Lake County won, 5-2, over Lakewood, behind six innings of two-run ball by Jeanmar Gomez.
On deck: Laffey faces the Royals' Kyle Davies (1-2, 5.03 ERA) in the second game of the series at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.