Laffey takes winning ways to national stage

Laffey takes winning ways to stage

DETROIT -- Aaron Laffey knows the value of not getting discouraged early in a season as well as anybody.

Laffey, after all, was beaten out of a rotation spot with the Indians that he was certain he'd claim in Spring Training, and he had to begin '09 in Triple-A Columbus. A week into the season, however, the Indians already had a need for a replacement for an injured Scott Lewis, and Laffey got the call. He responded with a 2-0 record and 2.41 ERA in three April starts.

On Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park, Laffey will take the ball against the division-rival Tigers and in front of a sizable TV audience as part of FOX's "Saturday Game of the Week" slate. Thom Brennaman will handle the play-by-play, with Rick Manning serving as analyst.

When Laffey does his own analysis of the Indians, he looks past the 8-14 record in April and sees reasons to be encouraged about what lies ahead.

"We're in every game," Laffey said. "We're right there. You've got to stay with it, stay positive, play hard, and we'll be all right."

Of the Tribe's 14 losses, six have come by one or two runs.

"If we start to pull those close games out," Laffey said, "that will be a big separator for us."

Laffey has been a separator in a rotation that was scuffling before he joined the mix on April 15. The Tribe is 3-0 in games started by Laffey and 6-14 in all the others. Laffey himself is just 3 1/3 innings shy of qualifying for the eighth-lowest ERA in the AL.

"I'm just staying consistent with my sinker," he said. "I've always had pretty good command of my four-seam, but sometimes I'd get a little erratic with my sinker. When I'm going bad, my go-to pitch needs to be my sinker. When I don't have good command of that, that's when my outings start to plummet."

Laffey plummeted to Triple-A last season when he fizzled after a strong start to the season. Lewis' injury offered him an opportunity to return to the big leagues, and his early performance leads one to believe he's here to stay indefinitely.

Yet Laffey knows that, because of his sinkerball style, his outings won't always be clean.

"I am going to have those rough outings where I give up a lot of base hits," he said. "They're going to happen eventually. It's just inevitable with the way I pitch. I could give up eight or 10 hits and six runs and not even give up a hard-hit ball."

For the Indians, this whole season hasn't been clean. They've already dealt with injuries, roster tweaks and late-inning collapses. They are hoping their luck turns around in May, but getting the collective unit to click at the same time has been a struggle -- as evidenced by the eighth-inning drama they endured to eke out a 6-5 victory Friday night.

"We haven't put all the pieces together yet," closer Kerry Wood said. "Once we put it together, we're not too far off."

As Laffey can attest, fate can change in a hurry in the big leagues. It's turned in Laffey's favor thus far this season. And the Indians hope that on Saturday, as they vie to put together consecutive wins for just the second time this year, it turns in theirs.

"It's going to start to turn around," Laffey said. "It's one of those things where we have to catch a break."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Aaron Laffey (2-0, 2.41 ERA)
Laffey's only career appearance against the Tigers came on June 7 of last year at Comerica Park. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing a pair of runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

DET: RHP Zach Miner (2-1, 6.00 ERA)
The Tigers used an off-day to shuffle their rotation so that Miner and similar sinkerballer Rick Porcello wouldn't be pitching on consecutive days, leaving Miner with six days of rest before he faces the Indians. It also allows manager Jim Leyland a little more flexbility to go to his bullpen early if he sees signs of trouble in Miner. Miner threw five innings of one-run ball at Kansas City last Saturday, but also walked three Royals and threw just 42 of his 83 pitches for strikes. He has never started against Cleveland, but owns a 1-1 record and 5.02 ERA in nine relief meetings with the Indians, walking eight batters over 14 1/3 innings. With Dontrelle Willis progressing quickly through the Tigers farm system in his rehab assignment, this outing could be a big test for Miner.

The Indians have won eight straight against the Tigers, dating back to July 31 of last season. ... Jhonny Peralta went 77 at-bats without a home run before cranking out a solo shot Friday. With that, he set a new club record for homers as a shortstop (86). ... Carl Pavano went 7 1/3 innings in Friday's win. That was his longest outing since a complete-game shutout at Seattle on May 17, 2005, when he was with the Yankees. ... David Dellucci tied a career high with four hits Friday. ... Victor Martinez has a 10-game hitting streak.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Sunday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 1-3, 3.94) at Tigers (Justin Verlander, 1-2, 6.75), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians (Fausto Carmona, 1-3, 6.28) at Blue Jays (Brian Tallet, 1-1, 6.45), 7:07 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Anthony Reyes, 1-0, 7.58) at Blue Jays (Brett Cecil, 0-0, -.--), 12:37 p.m. ET

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