Mastny saves the day for Tribe

Mastny saves the day for Tribe

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Indians aren't picky when it comes to sending a guy out to pitch the ninth these days.

If someone could be plucked off the street and find a way to get a save, the Tribe wouldn't ask any questions.

Tom Mastny wasn't plucked off the street, it just seems that way, considering that he wasn't even in big-league camp with the club during Spring Training and began the year at Double-A Akron.

But when manager Eric Wedge sent Mastny to the mound to get the final outs against the Devil Rays on Saturday night, the lanky right-hander did not disappoint. Mastny's first big-league save put the final stamp on a 5-3 victory at Tropicana Field.

Wedge had told reporters before the game that he'd consider using Mastny in the ninth. He didn't, however, inform Mastny of that plan.

"It's news to me," the 25-year-old Mastny said. "But I'll do whatever they want. If they think I can close, I'll try my best to do that."

Is this the Indians' long-awaited closer, one month after veteran Bob Wickman was shipped to the Braves?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. One save does not a closer make, after all. But it is safe to assume that Mastny hasn't pitched in the ninth for the last time.

"He'll get another opportunity," Wedge said. "But we've got a day game [on Sunday], and he threw two innings, so we'll have to see where he's at."

They were two big innings for an Indians team that has seen six saves blown since the day Wickman blew town, including a ninth-inning disaster one night earlier against the Rays.

They were also two innings that rewarded rookie left-hander Jeremy Sowers for another impressive outing.

This wasn't a dominant outing from Sowers, by any means, but it did serve as a prime example of the cerebral youngster's ability to make adjustments on the fly. Sowers walked two batters in the first inning, including leadoff man Rocco Baldelli, and both walks resulted in runs.

"That was a very good lesson learned in the first inning," Sowers said. "With the way I pitch, I'm not going to be able to strike out a lot of guys, so I've got to force contact. I can't walk anybody."

Though he did walk two more batters in the game, Sowers appeared to take that lesson to heart. He didn't allow another run over the remainder of his six innings of work.

"He worked his way into it," Wedge said of Sowers. "He did a good job and kept making pitches."

Rays right-hander Tim Corcoran made his pitches, too. A lot of them. In fact, he threw no fewer than 41 of them in a three-run fourth inning for the Tribe.

Jhonny Peralta got that big inning going with a two-run triple to the right-field corner. Joe Inglett then knocked in Peralta with an RBI single.

By wearing down Corcoran, the Indians appeared to have an opportunity to pile on. After Andy Marte singled, Grady Sizemore drew a walk to presumably load the bases. Ball four, though, was a wild pitch, and Inglett was nabbed when he tried to score on the play, ending the inning prematurely.

No matter. The Indians added to their lead in the seventh, when Travis Hafner hit a monstrous solo shot to the right-field seats off Shawn Camp. And after reliever Fausto Carmona gave up a run to the Rays, Marte struck with an RBI double to make it 5-3.

This was a fine time for Wedge to get nervous. He had seen his young relief crew squander too many late leads to sit comfortably.

Mastny had been sitting comfortably for the better part of his first month with the Indians. He had made just three short appearances since being called up from Triple-A Buffalo on July 24.

While doing all that sitting, Mastny had a prime view of the bullpen blowups that preceded this outing. But he didn't let those rough nights of the past get in his head.

"You're not thinking about it," he said. "If you start thinking about what other people are doing, that's when you get into trouble."

Mastny had no trouble retiring the Rays in order in the eighth, so Wedge didn't bother to have anybody warm up for the ninth. He was sticking with the hot hand.

When taking the mound for the ninth, Mastny might have felt a little more adrenaline. But he didn't feel all that nervous.

"[Catcher] Vic [Martinez] just said, 'Stick with me,' " Mastny said. "He said, 'We're going to get through this. We're gonna be all right.' "

Martinez was right. Mastny retired Jorge Cantu on one pitch. After giving up a base hit to pinch-hitter Greg Norton, he got Baldelli looking with a sharp curve, then got Ben Zobrist swinging at a sinker.

With that, Mastny's save was complete. It was the fourth of his pro career, with the first two coming at Class A Kinston last year and the third at Akron this year. It was also the culmination of Mastny's ascent from off the organizational radar to the bottom of the ninth.

"It says a lot about how far he's come this year," Wedge said. "It says a lot about his mental toughness. It was good to see -- for him and for us."

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