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Kobayashi to be limited down stretch

Kobayashi to be limited down stretch

CLEVELAND -- The Indians are going to take it easy with reliever Masa Kobayashi the rest of the season.

The 34-year-old right-hander pitched a scoreless sixth inning in Sunday's 6-4 loss to Seattle. It was only his sixth appearance in August, a month in which he pitched three innings.

"We want him to finish the season strong," manager Eric Wedge said. "We want him to feel good physically."

Kobayashi has appeared in 54 games, compiling a 4-5 record with six saves and a 4.27 ERA. Since June 27, he has allowed 11 earned runs and 18 hits in 13 2/3 innings over 17 games.

Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis are looking ahead to 2009 with Kobayashi and think curtailing his work load now will make a difference.

"I do think it will help next year," Wedge said.

Kobayashi was signed to a two-year contract with a club option for 2010 last November. He pitched for Chiba Lotte in the Japanese Pacific League the previous nine seasons. He made 65 appearances in 2000 and topped the 50 mark only two other times, in 2004 (51) and 2006 (53).

Kobayashi bounced around from the setup role to the closer's role early this season. Closer Joe Borowski struggled and was placed on the disabled list in April before returning and being released prior to the All-Star break. Rafael Betancourt, perhaps the best setup man in baseball last season, has struggled most of the season.

In looking ahead to next season, Wedge hopes to have more of a defined role for Kobayashi.

"Hopefully, we don't have to use him like we did in the first half this year," Wedge said. "It was out of necessity. We were in such disarray in our bullpen. He was the one guy who was pitching pretty consistently."

Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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