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03/13/09 7:20 PM ET

Laffey lays claim to fifth spot in rotation

Left-handed starter throws four perfect innings against A's

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have been waiting for somebody to step up and claim the open spot in their starting rotation.

On Friday, it might have happened.

Aaron Laffey came into camp as the favorite to win the job. But after two consecutive shaky starts betrayed that standing, he rebounded with authority against the A's, tossing four perfect innings in which he recorded eight ground-ball outs.

"I just knew it was a matter of time before things start going my way, and I start hitting my spots on a more consistent basis," Laffey said. "I went out with the same attitude I have every other day."

Actually, that's not entirely true, as Laffey did have the events of the morning on his mind. A devout North Carolina Tar Heels fan, he had to watch his team barely squeak by Virginia Tech in their ACC tournament opener.

"That got me a little fired up before the game," he said.

But the left-handed Laffey knew he also had his own recent travails to overcome. His last start against the Royals lasted just one inning in which he gave up three runs on four hits and burned 38 pitches.

This time around, Laffey only needed 40 pitches to get through four innings. He had to go to the bullpen after the fourth to get in his remaining 20 pitches of work. In the game, he barely used his changeup, sticking instead with his sinking fastball, which he routinely ran in on the A's hitters, with great effectiveness.

"Laffey was very good," manager Eric Wedge said. "He was more aggressive with his approach."

And Laffey's taking an aggressive mentality with regard to this rotation battle, in which he's the only competitor to get the starting nod in each of his outings.

"I'm taking the mindset that it's already my spot," Laffey said. "I have that confidence that it's going to be my spot."

On Friday, he began to prove it.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.