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Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2003

Indians slowly improving behind experience, better bullpen

June 1, 2003

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— Eric Wedge is far from satisfied, but Cleveland's first-year manager is having much a better time watching his young Indians these days.

Following a 7-20 start -- their worst since 1991 -- the Indians finished May with a three-game winning streak and a 14-12 record for the month. Only the first-place Minnesota Twins have played better ball lately within the division.

Granted, Cleveland played Detroit seven times in May. But the early turnaround is a positive step for the Indians, a team with no illusions of making the postseason in 2003.

"I feel like we're finally playing the way I want us to play," Wedge, who played collegiately at Wichita State, said Saturday after the Indians' game with the Chicago White Sox was postponed by rain. "I like our approach and how we're taking care of our business on the field. We are making strides, and getting better.

"There are a lot of good things happening here."

And there are numbers to back Wedge's assessment.

Cleveland has won 10 of its last 16 and although the weather in northeast Ohio remains gray and gloomy, there are more than a few bright spots for the Indians.

For one, the Indians' shaky bullpen has finally started to stabilize.

Cleveland's relievers were a combined 1-10 to start the season, but since May 13, they are 5-3 with five saves and have lowered their ERA from 5.50 to 4.62 in the last 17 games.

The Indians are hitting better as well, but not up to Wedge's standards.

"We're still giving away too many at-bats," he said. "We're doing a better job at times, but we need to be more consistent. That's the thing we need to add. We've had some good stretches. We string together two and three good games. Now we need more."

The Indians, who have three rookies in the starting rotation, had to endure a rough schedule during the first 11¼2 months this season. Cleveland played Seattle, Oakland and Anaheim six times each over a 28-game stretch.

Wedge thinks it toughened his team.

"We knew it would be a good indicator for where we were at," he said.

C.C. Sabathia, who got a victory Friday and is unbeaten in his last nine starts, said the Indians were feeling better about how this season could end.

"We're getting more and more confident," he said. "It's been a big boost finishing this month off well."

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