Indians determined to win fans over
Hafner: They'll come if we do our part this summer
CLEVELAND -- Once the pomp and pageantry of the home opener died down, the Indians played the rest of their six-game homestand at Progressive Field in front of a few of their closest friends.The Tribe sold out the April 12 opener, drawing 42,061 fans. Over the next five games against the Rangers and White Sox, a total of 54,139 tickets were distributed. More than 1,100 of those tickets went to Cavaliers fans who paid $5 to enter Progressive Field upon the conclusion of Saturday's NBA playoff game next door at Quicken Loans Arena. Attendance figures at April and May home games, before the weather gets more predictable, are traditionally lower, and small crowds were all the more expected after a 97-loss season and with a youthful roster on the field. Still, the proliferation of empty seats, particularly for the weekend games against the White Sox, does not go unnoticed by the players, who feel a responsibility to win this city over again. "I remember how it was in '07, and everybody remembers the 1990s, when this place was filled," designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "If we win, we'll get great crowds and a great atmosphere. If we do our part and win games, the attendance will pick up." Justin Masterson got the starting nod Wednesday, when the Indians and Rangers drew the smallest announced crowd in 17 seasons of Progressive Field's existence -- 10,071. It's a bit of a culture shock for Masterson, a former member of the Red Sox who no doubt grew accustomed to playing in front of a packed house at Fenway Park. "In my mind, I keep looking for great things to happen to get people to see they're missing out," Masterson said. "There are good things to come here."
Lower arm slot gives Westbrook an edge
CLEVELAND -- Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook has reached another milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and it's one he hopes can thwart opposing hitters.In 2005 and '06, Westbrook began dropping his arm slot on his delivery of certain fastballs and sliders. It was his way of tripping up right-handed batters. Nearly two years removed from his 2008 elbow surgery, Westbrook wanted to ensure his arm is where it needs to be physically before he started to use the dropped-down delivery this year. Westbrook said he began using the lower arm slot in his second outing of the season in Detroit, and he used it again in Saturday's strong seven-inning effort against the White Sox. "It gets them thinking about something else," Westbrook said. "My curveball is only so-so, and I'm not a strikeout guy. I didn't really have anything to throw with two strikes to righties. Dropping down gives me another element. The sidearm sinker and slider is another pitch to righties."
Perez corrects mistake, returns to form
CLEVELAND -- Indians interim closer Chris Perez knew something had to change after his rough outings against the Tigers and Rangers. Ruben Niebla helped him change it.Niebla, the Indians' assistant to the Major League coaching staff and former pitching coach at Double-A Akron and Class A Lake County, watched video of Perez in those two outings and compared it to video of Perez from the end of last season. He noticed that Perez was going into his delivery with his left shoulder turned too far away from the plate, and that was impacting Perez's ability to hit the outside corner against right-handed hitters and the inside corner against lefties. "I was fighting my body," Perez said. "Everything was leaking back over." Perez tweaked his delivery in a bullpen session with pitching coaches Tim Belcher and Scott Radinsky and took that into Saturday's save situation against the White Sox. For one night, at least, it worked out, as Perez retired the side in order to get his third save of the season, all of which have come against Chicago. Perez is filling in as the Tribe's closer until Kerry Wood (strained back muscle) comes off the disabled list. Wood is scheduled to throw a simulated session against hitters in Minneapolis this week, so his return could be soon.
What did manager Manny Acta think of those tan recycled caps the Indians wore Saturday as part of an Earth Day awareness event? "No comment," Acta said with a smile, before getting mroe serious. "It's great that we're doing this. I'm still in the ice becomes water age. I can't see how a bottlecap becomes a hat. That's amazing." ... Right-hander Yohan Pino outdueled highly touted Reds prospect Aroldis Chapman in Triple-A Columbus' 3-1 win over Louisville on Saturday. Pino went seven innings, holding the Bats scoreless and giving up four hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He's now 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts. ... Entering Sunday, Shin-Soo Choo had reached safely in 14 of his previous 21 plate appearances and ranked sixth in the league in OPS (1.128).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.