Indians notebook: Cliff Lee wants no negative vibe

Andy Call

Cliff Lee says he isn’t bitter. Perplexed, perhaps, but not bitter.

The 29-year-old left-hander returned from his demotion to Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday. He was one of four players called up on the first day rosters could expand from 25 active players to as many as 40. Also joining the Indians were outfielder Ben Francisco, right-hander Mike Koplove and infielder Luis Rivas.

“I want to make it clear I’m not trying to be bitter,” Lee said. “I don’t want any negative vibe to come out. I want to win. If this is the role that gives this team a better chance to win, that’s what I’ll do.”

Manager Eric Wedge said Lee will not return to Cleveland’s starting rotation, but will instead pitch in a relief role. He spent the first month of the season on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle, then made 16 so-so starts (5-8, 6.38) before being optioned to Buffalo on July 27.

It was a difficult decision for both Lee and the club that signed him to a three-year, $14 million contract last August — one that now has Lee mulling his future in Cleveland.

“I would say that’s a concern, a little bit,” Lee said. “I thought I had a pretty set role. Now I don’t any more. I am curious.”

Lee didn’t say the move was the wrong one, however.

“The results weren’t there,” Lee admitted. “They want to win every game right now, and I wasn’t the best option.”

The Indians have always agreed with Lee that his best pitch is his fastball. The contention between Lee and his bosses has been the frequency and timing of his curveball and changeup. Lee hinted the amount of work he was devoting to perfecting his breaking pitches was detracting from the effectiveness of his fastball.

“I needed to get back to my game plan, the way I attack hitters,” Lee said.

So, why did Lee get away from his game plan?

“That’s what they wanted me to do,” Lee said.

Lee said his only previous relief work consists of two appearances for the University of Arkansas.

“I’m used to stretching and long toss, but once I start throwing, I get ready pretty quick,” Lee said.

Wedge said he doesn’t believe this shift in roles will be permanent.

“We all still look at Cliff as a starter,” Wedge said. “He’s one of our core guys, a Cleveland Indian through-and-through. We’re happy to have him back here.”

The Indians made room for Rivas on their 40-man roster by designating Buffalo left-hander John Koronka for assignment.

COMING UP  The series concludes this afternoon at 1:05. Jake Westbrook (5-7, 4.38) will start against Jose Contreras (7-16, 6.13).

AUGUST NOTES  The Indians were 17-11 in August, 12-3 after Aug. 15. ... Cleveland’s starting pitchers were 13-7 with a 3.28 ERA and the pitching staff as a whole had a 3.41 ERA. ... Victor Martinez batted .306 and Grady Sizemore .295, but the best August average belonged to utilityman Chris Gomez  (12-for-35, .343). Those who struggled in August included Kelly Shoppach (.172), Josh Barfield (.189) and Jason Michaels (.231).

MORE ON THE WAY  Manager Eric Wedge said “a couple guys” will be called up from Triple-A Buffalo when the Bisons end their season. LHP Jeremy Sowers, OF Shin-Soo Choo and 3B Andy Marte are likely candidates. The Bisons trailed Richmond by 1 1/2 games for the wild-card playoff spot entering the final weekend of the International League regular season.

WAITING GAME  OF David Dellucci (hamstring surgery) took batting practice Saturday. He will face live pitching Monday at Mahoning Valley, then join the Indians on Tuesday at Minnesota for batting practice and baserunning. “My goal is to make it back and help this team out in one at-bat,” Dellucci said. “If I get two, that’ll be great. Three, even better. But I’m shooting for one right now.”

ON THE FARM  Single-A Lake County C Matt McBride has been promoted to Double-A Akron. McBride hit .283 with 35 doubles, 8 home runs and 66 RBIs for the Captains. The former Lehigh University star was drafted with the 75th overall pick last June.

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail andy.call@cantonrep.com.