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Huff pitching his way into Indians’ future

Wire • Sep 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM

David Huff has given the Indians’ deep thinkers something else to contemplate, as they ponder how to avoid another collapse next year.

If most September call-ups are little more than afterthoughts in the grand game of player evaluation, Huff was the umbrella that kept the “real” prospects dry in the event a hurricane dumped 10 inches of rain on Northeast Ohio.

In other words, if war, pestilence and famine blocked the Tribe front office from seeing a pitcher that might help the club next season, Huff would be there to fill in.

Since being called up on Sept. 4, Huff has pitched twice in relief and twice as a starter, including Sunday, when the Indians beat the Royals 15-4 at Kauffman Stadium.

It was clear when Huff showed up in Cleveland after mostly a misspent season at Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron, his bosses weren’t all that anxious to see him pitch. A combined record of 7-6 and an ERA of 4.83 against Triple-A and Double-A hitters will do that. So does a checkered history with the Tribe at the major-league level.

"I’m just doing what I can do to keep the team in it,” Huff said. “I’m trying to be aggressive.”

When reporters asked manager Manny Acta more than three weeks ago whether Huff would get a start, he said no. At least he didn’t say, “No way.” Nevertheless, Huff was assigned to the bullpen and cautioned, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Acta readily conceded that Huff was not a priority with the club but, “he threw the ball very well for us today. We have never given up on David. We’re hoping now that he will pitch well in his last start and go into the offseason with a lot of confidence. It’s always about, ‘What have you done for us lately?’ That’s what we’re looking for.”

It is likely that Huff knew where he stood with the organization.

“I just want to finish strong and put my name out there,” he said. “They probably wrote me off after the injury (strained hamstring in spring training) and other stuff.”

What led to the very effective start Sunday was two relief outings and one start, as Huff (2-0, 2.25 ERA) gave up one run, three hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings. The only run Huff allowed was on Adam Moore’s first homer of the season with one out in the third inning.

After the home run, Huff retired 10 batters in a row until giving up a bloop single to Alex Gordon with two outs in the sixth, when Acta went to the bullpen. Under other circumstances, Acta might have kept Huff out there, but he has 11 relief pitchers.

In four September outings, Huff has compiled a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings. As a starter, Huff owns a 3.60 ERA.

When the Tribe was trying to groom Huff as the team’s first left-handed starter since Cliff Lee, he seemed to fight the idea of throwing mostly fastball to spots.

“I want to make them hit my best stuff,” he said. “A well-located fastball is the best pitch in baseball.”

Catcher Carlos Santana, who hit two home runs in the game, said, “Last year and before, he threw more breaking pitches. I think maybe that’s his problem. Now he is throwing more fastballs to both sides of the plate.”

The Indians blew open a game they were winning 3-1, when they scored five times in the seventh. It turned into total overkill in the ninth, when they added seven more runs.

In addition to Santana going deep twice and driving in five runs, Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits and two RBI, and Michael Brantley had three hits, including a double.

The Royals finally have left the realm of the cellar dwellers this year and stand 7{ games in front of the Tribe. However, they still have their bottom-feeding moments, like giving up 12 runs in the last three innings.

Pitching, which is the element that continues to lag, fell apart. Phenom Jake Odorizzi made his major-league debut Sunday and held the Tribe to three runs and six hits in 51/3 innings. However, the relief pitching was spotty, and altogether Kansas City pitching gave up 16 hits and eight walks.

“Things just started happening,” Acta said. “We just kept it going. It was cool for the kids.”


By Sheldon Ocker - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

(c)2012 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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