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Can Tribe's Smith face lefties, too?

Can Tribe's Smith face lefties, too?

CLEVELAND -- Joe Smith has neither had much success nor much opportunity against left-handers in his Major League career.

If Tribe manager Eric Wedge has his way, both those facts will change this season.

Wedge is insistent that the right-handed Smith is more than a matchup guy against right-handers. Generally speaking, side-armers struggle against lefties, but Wedge doesn't necessarily think that has to be the case with Smith.

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"I'm confident he's going to make it happen," Wedge said. "We see some things we feel can help him with his approach. ... He wants to be more than a right-on-right guy, and we believe he can be. It's going to take a little work to get there."

Smith will be looking for his next opportunity to prove himself in a setup role when the Indians wrap up their three-game series with the Royals on Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field. He can only hope he fares better than he did in the series opener on Tuesday, when he gave up consecutive hits to the left-handed-hitting Brayan Pena and David DeJesus before walking the right-handed Billy Butler. All three runners scored.

The Indians are looking for consistency in setup situations, and it's been an open audition.

"It's early in the year," Smith said. "Guys are going to be put in different roles and different situations to see what they can do."

Since his arrival from the Mets in a winter trade, Smith has been adamant that he can be more than a matchup guy. As it stands, he's been much more effective against right-handers (.224 average against, 2.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio) than lefties (.320, 1.11). But right-handers have had 373 plate appearances against him, while left-handers have only had 123.

Overall this season, Smith has a 9.82 ERA, having allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. Thus, he's joined the ranks of the struggling in the Tribe's beleaguered bullpen.

But Wedge has expressed nothing but confidence in Smith and expects him to figure prominently in the 'pen.

"His stuff is real," Wedge said. "He's a tough kid, and he's got some presence on the mound. The more he gets out there, the more you feel that."

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Anthony Reyes (1-0, 5.73 ERA)
Reyes turned in another decent, if not efficient, start against the Yankees on Friday. The only runs he allowed came on solo shots from Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Melky Cabrera. Those were three of the five hits served up by Reyes in five innings in which he walked three and struck out one. On the whole, Reyes has done a decent job limiting the damage against him and avoiding the big inning. But the Indians could benefit from a little more efficiency from the right-hander. Reyes is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in three career appearances against the Royals.

KC: RHP Gil Meche (1-0, 2.25 ERA)
Meche didn't have his best stuff in his last start, but he was still able to win one on Friday night in Texas, where he had lost six of his last seven decisions. Meche threw six shutout innings, allowing six hits. He relied mostly on his changeup, curveball and cutter because he never felt the fastball came out of his hand right on a damp night at Rangers Ballpark. Meche has pitched at least six innings in all three of his starts.

Tidbits
Voting for the 2009 All-Star Game via the Sprint online ballot has begun at indians.com and MLB.com. In-park voting will begin at Progressive Field on Tuesday and last through June 17. ... Victor Martinez notched his ninth multi-hit game of the season Wednesday. That leads the American League. ... Cliff Lee's five-game win streak against the Royals came to a close with Wednesday's 2-0 loss. ... The Indians fell to 1-4 all-time against Royals right-hander Brian Bannister on Wednesday. His father, Floyd, was just 3-11 lifetime vs. the Tribe

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Friday: Twins (Nick Blackburn, 0-1, 5.71) at Indians (Fausto Carmona, 1-2, 7.88), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Twins (Kevin Slowey, 2-0, 5.89) at Indians (Carl Pavano, 0-2, 9.69), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Twins (TBD) at Indians (Aaron Laffey, 1-0, 2.19), 1:05 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.

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