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Huff hopes to hang on to starting gig

Huff hopes to hang on to starting gig

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Huff didn't get much of a chance to compete for a rotation job in Spring Training. But now that he's been called up to start Sunday's series finale with the Rays, such a job is his for the taking.

"Everything's pretty open-ended right now," manager Eric Wedge said.

Huff, then, will be looking to make the most of Sunday's opportunity, which came as a result of Jeremy Sowers' demotion to Triple-A Columbus when right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino was signed on Friday. To make room for Huff on the active and 40-man rosters, reliever Masa Kobayashi was removed.

During spring camp, Huff, coming off a breakout year at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, didn't get a long look in Cactus League action because he was slowed by biceps tendinitis.

"Obviously, with the competition, we had to make a decision to decide who to give the innings to," Wedge said. "It was a good thing for him to go down and pitch and come up here with a little momentum. Hopefully that's what he's doing."

Momentum comes in the form of a 5-1 record and 4.35 ERA in seven starts. Huff struck out 32 and walked 16 in 39 1/3 innings. He had a 1.30 WHIP and a .241 average against.

A control pitcher who relies heavily on the separation of speeds between his fastball and changeup, Huff doesn't have overpowering stuff. But when he's at his best, Huff has pinpoint location and enough deception to strike out his share of hitters.

"He throws the ball where he wants to throw it," Wedge said. "He has a pretty good heartbeat. So it's a pretty good opportunity for him to come up and help us."

The Indians need all the help they can get. This rotation spot originally opened as a result of left-hander Aaron Laffey, one of the bright spots in the starting five in the early going this season, was converted to relief work to help save the bumbling bullpen. Laffey might return to starting eventually this season, but he was not considered for this turn through the rotation.

Sowers didn't do much with his two starts in place of Laffey. He went 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA, giving up 12 runs on 14 hits in nine innings and further fueling doubt that he'll ever get back to the Major League success he enjoyed in 2006.

Between Sowers' struggles, Laffey's move and Scott Lewis' injury, the Cleveland's purported starting depth has taken a major hit this season. Toss in Double-A prospect Hector Rondon's conversion to the 'pen last week, and the starting situation looks even thinner. Jake Westbrook should be fully recovered from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and back in the rotation by the end of June, but the Indians have no idea what to expect from him after the long layoff.

So the Indians are hoping the 24-year-old Huff will make good on the expectations the Indians established for him when they made him the 39th overall selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

"Hopefully we're bringing him up here at a good time," Wedge said.

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP David Huff (Big league debut)
Huff was promoted from Triple-A to make his Major League debut. After recovering from the injury that hampered him this spring, Huff earned this promotion by thriving at Columbus, going 5-1 with a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.

TB: RHP Andy Sonnanstine (1-4, 7.27 ERA)
Sonnanstine got hit hard and often on Tuesday against the Orioles. The right-hander allowed seven runs on nine hits in two innings -- including two home runs to Adam Jones -- to take his fourth loss of the season. When Sonnanstine is going well, he is a master of deception, employing an array of pitches that he can throw from all different angles. Sonnanstine is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two career starts against the Orioles and is 9-9 with a 5.06 ERA in 27 career starts at Tropicana Field.

Tidbits
Victor Martinez had three more hits on Saturday, raising his season average to .409 -- the best average in the big leagues. ... Aaron Laffey has a 1.80 ERA in four appearances since moving to the bullpen. ... Travis Hafner (right shoulder soreness) went 0-for-5 in his first rehab game with Columbus on Friday night. Hafner's rehab stint can last as long as 20 days, but the Indians hope to have him back at the end of this road trip. ... Wedge was still pretty upset on Saturday afternoon over the seven-run lead the Indians squandered in an 8-7 loss on Friday. He said he spoke with a few players individually in the wake of the loss but admitted there's only so much he can say. "There's only so many ways to describe the same thing," he said. "What you have to do is keep getting up. If you get knocked down, you have to keep getting up off the mat."

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

On television
• WKYC 3, STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 2-5, 3.00) at Royals (Brian Bannister, 3-1, 1.80), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Fausto Carmona, 2-4, 5.70) at Royals (Gil Meche, 2-4, 4.60), 8:10 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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