Indians Notebook: Jensen Lewis jumps from minors to Cleveland closer
It’s a long way from page 311 of the Indians media guide to the last three innings of a big-league game.
That, however, is the unlikely path Jensen Lewis has taken this summer. After two relatively uneventful minor league seasons, the 23-year-old right-hander shot up the organizational ladder and was called up to Cleveland on July 13. He has earned the confidence of Manager Eric Wedge to the extent he has pitched in the seventh inning or later in each of his last six appearances since Aug. 9.
“This last week or so, I’ve been getting myself mentally prepared to pitch in those situations,” Lewis said. “The biggest thing for me was to show some consistency, to have them say at the end of the day, ‘We know what he’s going to give us.’ ”
Lewis faced the top of the Minnesota order in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 4-3 Indians victory, retiring the side on a popup and two groundouts. Two days earlier, he had sent down all four batters he faced during the eighth and ninth innings of a 6-3 Cleveland win over the Twins.
“Last night was a big opportunity for him to step up, and he did,” Wedge said Thursday. “He’s pitched with a lot of confidence. He’s learned a great deal in the short time he’s been up here. He’s going out there with no fear.”
The former Cincinnati Anderson High and Vanderbilt pitcher said he has modified his patterns a bit since arriving in the big leagues.
“Early on, I was throwing a lot of fastballs and sliders,” Lewis said. “It was getting used to how (catchers) Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach called the games. After a while, I decided to just stick with my strengths — my fastball and my changeup, which had been my bread and butter for so long. Go figure — a Vandy guy taking that long to figure that out.”
Now that he’s figured it out, Lewis gives the Indians another option in the late innings to accompany Joe Borowski, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez.
“This is probably the most comfortable I’ve felt all year,” Lewis said. “It’s a huge confidence booster.”
CLEANING IT UP The Indians committed 118 errors and ranked 13th in the American League with a .981 fielding percentage in 2006. So far in 2007, they have made 76 errors and rank sixth in the AL with a .985 fielding percentage.
GOOD ARMS Fausto Carmona is fourth in the league in ERA (3.16) and C.C. Sabathia ninth (3.37). The last time two Indians finished in the top 10 in ERA was 2000 (Bartolo Colon and Chuck Finley).
A CLOSE SHAVE Casey Blake is not a big fan of Travis Hafner’s fledgling beard. “He’s a Casey Blake wannabee,” Blake moaned. Hafner said he was not happy to discover Blake is growing back the beard he shaved off a couple weeks ago. “If Casey’s growing his, I’m shaving mine,” Hafner said.
CELEBRITY GUESTS Former Indians and Seattle Manager Mike Hargrove chatted with players and coaches from both sides as he watched batting practice. ... Bobby Martin threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The 19-year-old from Dayton was born with no legs, yet played varsity football for Colonel White High School. He is a student at Central State University and still plays football, for the semi-pro North Coast Vikings.
ON THE FARM Akron 1B Jordan Brown has been named MVP of the Eastern League. Brown also won the Carolina League MVP award last season. He is batting .330 with 33 doubles, 10 home runs and 73 RBIs with a .417 on-base percentage.
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail email@example.com.