Notes: Nine trimmed from Tribe roster

Notes: Nine trimmed from Tribe roster

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Left-handed pitchers Jeremy Sowers, Jason Stanford and Tony Sipp and right-hander Jake Dittler were among the nine players the Indians trimmed from their Spring Training roster Wednesday.

Sipp, Sowers and catcher Javi Herrera were re-assigned to Minor League camp while Dittler, Stanford, right-hander Brian Slocum and right-hander Edward Mujica were optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

Infielder Michael Aubrey and left-hander Rafael Perez were optioned to Double-A Akron.

Sowers, a 22-year-old non-roster invitee, was 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three Grapefruit League games, including two starts. Considered a high-ceiling prospect, Sowers struggled more often than not, allowing 17 baserunners and a .355 batting average by opponents in 6 2/3 innings.

"With where we're at game-wise in the spring we've got to make sure everybody, particularly the starters, get their innings," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "[This was] Jeremy's first camp. He's a pretty even-keeled guy, very intelligent. I'm sure thare was some anxiety being his first camp and all. We still got a good look at him.

"He can make the baseball do what he wants to do, and do it consistently. We know he's capable of a lot more than we saw here. He's going to be fine and he has a very bright future ahead of him."

Sipp has shown promise this spring, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in five games, striking out six and walking none in 5 1/3 innings. But he clearly needs more Minor League seasoning, and with only two weeks of exhibition games left, there wouldn't be enough opportunities for Sipp to pitch in big-league camp. Perez and Dittler pitched two scoreless innings apiece but like Sipp were in a situation where there wasn't going to be enough innings to go around.

Stanford, 29, 1-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 15 career Major League games including 10 starts, was a long shot to make the team in a relief role, if only because of his experience and the fact he is a lefty. Stanford, who underwent Tommy John surgery July 29, 2004, has pitched less than 40 Minor League innings the last two years.

In four appearances this spring Stanford is 1-1 with a 13.50 ERA in four relief outings, and in 5 1/3 innings opponents were hitting .407 against him.

"Yesterday, I think he was more than just fighting himself mentally, he felt really good in the bullpen," Wedge said. "He's still coming back. You sometimes take a step back and two steps forward. I think we'll keep his pitch count down the first month and then round them up a little after that. I think he's going to be fine."

Wedge was impressed with Sipp. The manager also said he liked what he saw from Slocum since camp began.

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"I like his delivery, I like the way he repeats his delivery and the way his ball comes out of his hand," Wedge said of Slocum. "He's got that prototypical pitcher's body. Definitely an interesting guy."

Aubrey is only 23 years old, and with Cleveland's infield set, was destined for the Minor Leagues. His departure leaves Cleveland with only two left-handed hitting infielders on the active roster: Ben Broussard and Ramon Vazquez.

Aubrey, Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, has tremendous potential, but injuries -- most recently a back problem -- have dogged the prospect's career. A year ago, Baseball America rated Aubrey the best-hitting prospect in the organization. He has yet to appear in a game since camp opened.

"We're hopeful that he can get in games this weekend," Wedge said. "For him it's a huge step. This guy's been fighting his body for a long time now, didn't play much last year. Hopefully, he can get out there a little this weekend."

The Indians have 47 players in the Major League camp. The roster must be cut to 25 by Opening Day.

Wedge informed the players of Wednesday's moves before he drove to Dunedin for Wednesday's game.

"Everybody was good," Wedge said. "They were pros, they were appreciative of the fact of the opportunity, they paid attention to what we're talking about as to what they need to work on."

Martinez, Betancourt due back: Venezuela's elimination from the World Baseball Classic means two Indians who were participating for Team Venezuela, catcher Victor Martinez and pitcher Rafael Betancourt, should return to camp perhaps as soon as Thursday.

"I think they're going to be flying in today and hopefully we'll have them back tomorrow," Wedge said.

Wedge hasn't seen much of the tournament, but did watch Venezuela's final game against the Dominican Republic.

"I actually did watch the last four or five innings of it," Wedge said. "That was an interesting game. You don't see those games in this day and age."

Westbrook progresses: Jake Westbrook made his fourth start of the spring Wednesday and once again had another solid showing. The right-hander went four innings and limited the Blue Jays to a run on four hits and two walks. He struck out two.

"[The Blue Jays had] a lot of lefties in the lineup today so it was nice to work on a few cutters and my fastball away," westbrook said. "I only throw the cutter right now to lefties, because I don't have a feel for it against righties."

The cut fastball has become an important weapon for Westbrook since learning it from pitching coach Dick Pole a few years ago.

"It's made me a lot better pitcher the last couple of years," Westbrook said. "[It] keeps lefties honest with my sinker."

Westbrook threw 60 pitches (including 37 strikes), which is where he is scheduled to be at this point of the preseason.

"That's what Spring Training is for, to get to that fatigue level and pitch on," he said.

Quotable: "It's a great day if you love traffic." -- Wedge, after Wednesday's drive from Winter Haven to Dunedin took nearly three hours

Extra bases: Cleveland's team bus did not arrive at Knology Park for Wednesday's 1:05 p.m. ET game until 11:50 a.m. due to a major traffic jam on the I-4 and I-275 leg of the journey. West-bound traffic was backed up from 50th street in far east Tampa to approximately two miles before the Tampa-side entrance to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Wedge arrived roughly an hour before game time. The Indians were not scheduled to take batting practice and still had ample time to stretch and loosen up for the game. ... Slocum will be used out of the bullpen at Buffalo. ... Wedge is taking his time before deciding whether Kelly Shoppach or Einar Diaz will be the backup to starting catcher Martinez this year. "I like what I've seen of Shoppach," Wedge said. "Einar got off to a tough start but he had a real good day the other day, so I still think we need to give it some time." ... Franklin Gutierrez made a nice catch against the wall in center field to rob Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill of a hit in the third inning Wednesday. One out later, right fielder Brad Snyder turned in a gem of his own with a diving catch to rob Kevin Barker. ... Counting Jhonny Peralta's solo shot off Ted Lilly on Wednesday, the Indians have hit at least one homer in 14 of their first 17 Grapefruit League games.

On deck: The Indians will host Minnesota in a 1:05 p.m. game at Winter Haven's Chain of Lakes Park. Left-hander Cliff Lee will start against Twins lefty Darrell May. Also expected to pitch for the Tribe are right-handers Guillermo Mota, Matt Miller and Jason Davis.

Jim Molony is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.