08/26/07 3:25 PM ET
Notes: Laffey likely to stay in rotation
Young left-hander delivered in start on Saturday night
By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com
"I was a lot more comfortable out there today," Laffey said after the game. "It felt like another start. I just felt great to get back up here ... and get right back at it."
Laffey's performance likely will earn him a few more starts as Cleveland's No. 5 starter. Cliff Lee, who was demoted to Buffalo, threw six innings of one-run ball Saturday night, but he will stay in the Minor Leagues.
Laffey impressed in two Major League outings earlier this season, when he worked 5 1/3 and 5 2/3 innings, respectively, and posted a 5.73 ERA. However, the Indians didn't need a fifth starter for several turns, and Laffey returned to Triple-A.
In two Triple-A starts, Laffey allowed three runs in 14 innings and started using his changeup more effectively. The pitch helped against the Royals, but Laffey mixed 52 strikes among 93 pitches.
"Just try and pound the zone and throw my changeup in all counts for strikes," he said Saturday. "I think that really helped me today. I didn't have great fastball command, but the changeup was good for me to keep me back in the strike zone and keep the hitters off balance. I know I didn't throw a whole lot of strikes.
"I just kept telling myself, 'Throw strike one,' and every time I was ball one, ball two. ... I was extremely pumped to finish the sixth. Whenever there is a five in front of the inning, it's not as good as it could have been. If I was able to throw the ball in the strike zone a little bit more, I could be able to stretch out the ballgame a little bit more."
But Laffey's composure and changeup helped keep the Indians' infield busy -- and the strong starting pitching intact. Staked to a 5-0 lead after one inning and a 7-0 advantage after two, Laffey kept hitters guessing with his fastball and changeup.
An extreme groundball pitcher in the Minors, Laffey coaxed 14 groundball outs on Saturday.
"I thought he was good," manager Eric Wedge said. "He pitched. He could add and subtract with his fastball. He had to battle a couple of different times."
Laffey also made several nice plays in the field, including starting a double play that ended the third inning. Mark Grudzielanek hit a chopper up the middle that Laffey gloved on the first-base side of the field. Laffey spun and threw a strike to second base to start the play.
"He can field his position, too," Wedge said. "I tell you what, he is a [heck of an] athlete."
The outing helped lower the August ERA of Indians starters to 3.07 and bump the rotation's record to 10-7 this month. Laffey's quality start was the Indians' Major League-leading 76th this season.
"To be comfortable out there is half the battle," Wedge said. "He came in and did his routine and went out there and pitched. That's where his focus was. He went out there and took it pitch to pitch."
Homers help: Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez each hit solo homers in Saturday's nine-run attack. It brought the Indians' homer total in the second half to 33, 10th in the American League.
The lack of homers is one of the main reasons the Indians offense has slumped to 13th in the American League in second-half runs. In the first half, Cleveland ranked second in homers (109) and runs (471).
The Indians are 58-34 when they homer this season, and 13-23 when they don't.
"It really does [help]," Wedge said. "We are a team that has to hit first. When you do that, then the homers will come and the doubles will come, too."
Lofton for 3,000? Kenny Lofton recorded his 2,400th career hit Saturday with a first-inning single. He collected two more hits -- both doubles -- and his 2,402 hits are 10th on the active career list and 104th all-time.
Lofton said he has thought about 3,000 career hits -- a mark reached by just 27 players and one that virtually ensures a spot in the Hall of Fame. However, Lofton, 40, doesn't know if he can reach the milestone.
"If I had the opportunity to play more the past four of five years, but since I didn't get a chance to play as much as I wanted to, it might be tough," Lofton said.
Lofton, a six-time All-Star, received 459 or more at-bats every year from 1991 to 2003, but he crossed that mark just once from 2004-06.
Tribe tidbits: Wedge said Andy Marte could be one of the club's September callups. Marte went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs on Saturday night, and he is batting .261 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs this season for Buffalo. However, playing time could be limited for Marte. "We had a meeting about September callups, and we will have another one. He is a consideration," Wedge said. "But I don't how much he would play." ... Trot Nixon has terrific career numbers against Kansas City's Gil Meche (7-for-15), but Nixon didn't start because Wedge wanted to keep the same lineup that produced nine runs Saturday night.
Down on the farm: Robert Brownlie pitched five scoreless innings in Double-A Akron's 8-0 win over Reading on Saturday. Brownlie, who has a 1-2 record and a 3.11 ERA this season, allowed just one hit and no walks with three strikeouts. ... Class A Kinston beat Frederick, 4-3, in 11 innings. John Drennen went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Chris Niesel worked one scoreless inning for the victory.
On deck: Paul Byrd (12-5, 4.61 ERA) will oppose Carlos Silva (10-12, 4.10) Monday night in the first game of a three-game series with the Twins at the Metrodome. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.