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Tribe's new era gets a Sowers start

Tribe's new era gets a Sowers start

DETROIT -- Players are shifting in and out of the Indians' clubhouse so quickly these days it's difficult to keep track of them all.

"I guess you could compare it to Triple-A," starter Jeremy Sowers said. "It's a revolving door."

You could compare the Indians to a Triple-A club in many ways these days. Their 9-2 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park -- a loss built upon another rough outing from Sowers -- was their ninth straight. It's their longest losing streak since dropping nine in a row in August of 2004.

It's also a losing streak largely attributable to the Indians' makeshift roster as a result of injuries, ineffectiveness and, most recently, the CC Sabathia trade.

Under ordinary circumstances, a pitcher struggling the way Sowers has since his early June installment into the rotation would be heading back to Triple-A Buffalo.

But these, of course, are not ordinary circumstances. And before Tuesday's game, manager Eric Wedge spoke optimistically about Sabathia's departure opening up the door for the Indians to get an extended look at the lefty Sowers.

On the whole, it hasn't been a pretty sight. Sowers is 0-5 with an inflated 7.81 ERA, and he has given up 15 runs over 8 2/3 innings in his last two starts.

Yet Wedge, ever the optimist, saw improvement from Sowers on this night, even as the youngster was tattooed for seven runs -- six earned -- on 10 hits, including two homers, over 5 2/3 innings.

"If you look at this outing versus some of his more recent ones, his command was better," Wedge said. "He took strides with his fastball."

Unfortunately for Sowers, on this night, the Tigers often found themselves striding home.

This game started out promisingly enough for the Indians, as Jhonny Peralta belted his 13th homer off Justin Verlander with a two-run blast in the top of the first.

Sowers held that 2-0 lead until the third. Then he fell apart. Curtis Granderson's RBI single, Marcus Thames' RBI double and Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer put the Tigers up, 4-2. In the fifth, Sowers gave up another two-run blast -- this time to Thames -- and the Tigers' lead jumped to 6-2.

Thames' homer characterized Sowers's outing. He had thrown a fastball down and away, but Thames was able to reach down and smack it out to the opposite field.

"It was a 1-0 pitch, and it wasn't bad at all," Sowers said. "He went down and got it. It's a short porch to right field, and he was able to lift it out of here. That was the most frustrating part of tonight. I made a good pitch and had nothing to show for it."

Sowers was knocked out of the game in the sixth, when Edgar Renteria reached on a Peralta throwing error and later came around to score on a Granderson single.

As much as he's struggled, Sowers isn't going anywhere. The Indians have no other legitimate starting options at Buffalo, save for left-hander Dave Huff. And Huff's innings threshold must be guarded closely because of the left elbow injury that held him up in 2007.

Sowers, then, is left to make adjustments and refine his command on the grandest of stages.

Thus far, it hasn't gone very well.

Then again, what has gone well for the Indians these days? They are winless on a road trip they determined would "make or break" their season, they were forced to deal away the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and they are showing no legitimate signs of an impending turnaround.

Even on a night when Peralta's early homer seemed as if it might set a tone against Verlander, the bats fell quiet. Verlander let just one more baserunner aboard over the remainder of his seven strong innings.

"We didn't create opportunities for ourselves after the first," Wedge said. "[Verlander] worked himself into the game."

The Indians have already worked themselves out of the AL Central race. But they still have goals to accomplish in '08, according to Wedge. First and foremost: Ensure that this losing streak is just nine games, and not "nine and counting."

"Right now, it's a domino [effect]," Wedge said. "We've got to work that much harder to snap out of it."

But with a Triple-A feel emanating through the clubhouse, that will be difficult to do.

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

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