Sowers makes return to rotation

Sowers makes return to rotation

CLEVELAND -- When the Indians faced the Yankees in last fall's American League Division Series, Jeremy Sowers had one of the best seats in the house.

But that's all he had. The Tribe had no use for the former No. 1 Draft pick on its pitching staff, so he was simply a cheerleading member of the club's traveling party.

Sowers got to this not-so-lofty state by pitching his way out of the Tribe's rotation in the first half of '07. After a stellar big league debut in '06, he lost velocity off his fastball, lost command of the strike zone and lost confidence in his talents.

On Saturday, in front of a packed house at Progressive Field and a national television audience on FOX, the 24-year-old Sowers will be back, taking over the rotation spot left behind by the injured Jake Westbrook.

And the Indians expect those once-absent strengths to return as well.

"He's not the same guy [from '07]," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of Sowers. "You look at what he's gone through, and you look at the adjustments he's made and how he's learned so much about himself, and I think he's better for it."

It's an intriguing twist to the "Game of the Week" that the Yankees will send out a youngster who is going through a learning process similar to what Sowers endured last season.

Right-hander Ian Kennedy (0-2, 9.64 ERA) was impressive in his big league break-in last September, but his first April, to this point, has been a struggle. Kennedy's first four outings saw him give up 15 runs on 19 hits, with 13 walks, in just 14 innings.

Kennedy is trying not to stray from his strengths -- namely, using his command and guile to get the opposition to mishit the ball.

"You have to go after [big league hitters] the same way, throw strikes and get ahead," Kennedy said. "If you don't, they're Major League hitters, and they take advantage of it if you pitch behind."

Sowers certainly got a taste of that last season, when he went 1-6 with a 6.93 ERA in 12 starts before a June 10 demotion to Triple-A. It was in Buffalo that he refined his game, and he made an encouraging spot start against the Mariners in the last week of the season, pitching five scoreless innings.

The Indians saw more positives from Sowers this month at Buffalo, where he was 0-2 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts.

"He's put the ball on the ground, his strikeouts (16) and walks (eight) are right where we expected him to be," farm director Ross Atkins said. "He was great with the transition back to Buffalo. Given everything he's been through, from getting to the Majors in a hurry to coming back, how he's handled that is a strength. He's intelligent, and he cares about where he can be."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Jeremy Sowers (2008 debut)
Sowers was lit up by the Yankees in his lone start against them last season, giving up six earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium. He is 1-1 with a 7.45 ERA against the Yankees in two career starts.

NYY: RHP Ian Kennedy (0-2, 9.64 ERA)
The tough times are continuing for Kennedy, who is winless after four starts and suffered a loss last Saturday at Baltimore, lasting just 2 2/3 innings and needing 86 pitches to get through that four-run, five-walk showing. The Yankees want Kennedy to challenge hitters more and trust his stuff. A control pitcher, he has already walked 13 batters in 14 innings this season, well above his previous ratio at any professional level.

Tidbits
The Indians' four-game win streak is their longest of the season. ... Jhonny Peralta and Franklin Gutierrez launched back-to-back homers off the Yankees' Andy Pettitte in the fifth inning on Friday. It was the first time this season the Tribe has had back-to-back blasts. ... The Indians snapped an eight-game regular-season losing streak against the Yankees on Friday. The Tribe's last regular-season win against them came July 4, 2006. ... Victor Martinez has a seven-game hitting streak.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Sunday: Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 1-3, 10.13) vs. Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 4-0, 3.94), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 2008 debut) vs. Yankees (Mike Mussina, 2-3, 4.94), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Fausto Carmona, 3-1, 2.89) vs. Mariners (Carlos Silva, 3-0, 2.83), 7:05 p.m. ET

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