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Veras increasing chances for 'pen spot

Veras increasing chances for 'pen spot

CLEVELAND -- Don't look now, but Jose Veras might just be pitching his way into the Indians' bullpen plans for 2010.

Yes, that's the same Veras who was designated for assignment by the Tribe in early August and went unclaimed on waivers. The Indians thought enough of his stuff to re-sign him to a Minor League deal, let him work out his command woes at Triple-A Columbus and bring him back for a September stretch run.

Since his return to the Major League fold, Veras has shown marked improvement. In seven appearances since Sept. 1, Veras has allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on six hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings.

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Those are numbers the Indians, who close out their weekend set with the Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field, will keep in mind this winter when they decide if Veras is a part of their future. Complicating the situation is the fact that Veras, by virtue of his three years of big league service time, will be arbitration-eligible. So he'll get a nice raise, should the Indians decide to sign him.

Veras, who came to the organization after the Indians plucked him off waivers from the Yankees in June, said he's been pitching with more confidence lately.

"I'm throwing strikes," Veras said. "I'm getting first-pitch strikes, and getting the leadoff hitter out. I feel good about that."

Manager Eric Wedge has felt confident enough in the right-hander to trust him in more meaningful situations. Such was the case Friday night, when setup man Chris Perez had the night off and Veras served as the bridge to closer Kerry Wood in a 4-2 win.

"What I see him doing is executing his pitches," Wedge said. "He's able to strike somebody out, whether it be a right-hander or a left-hander. ... We feel he can contribute now and into the future."

That's good news for Veras, who said it was disappointing to head back to Triple-A for a spell.

"I had to clear my mind," he said. "I had to stop thinking so much and just throw strikes. I found a way."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP David Huff (10-8, 5.98 ERA)
Huff limited Oakland to two runs through six frames in his last start, scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out three. However, he admitted to struggling with his command around the zone. Huff has pitched at least six innings in his past four outings, surrendering three runs or fewer in all of them. This is the rookie's first career start against the Orioles.

BAL: RHP Chris Tillman (2-4, 4.71 ERA)
Tillman had one rough inning in his last start, but it was enough to sink him for the loss. The right-hander allowed three consecutive hits at one point and walked three batters in a row at another, but he still left after five-plus innings with only four earned runs allowed. The 21-year-old has been fairly effective in his first 11 big league starts and has delivered five innings or more in all but one of them.

Tidbits
Matt LaPorta (left hip inflammation) was out of the lineup again on Saturday. Wedge said it was best to back off LaPorta because of the wet field conditions. "We don't want to risk losing him for the rest of the year," Wedge said. LaPorta won't be at 100 percent for the rest of this season, and it sounds like it will be a few days before he's ready to play in the field. ... Joe Smith (left knee sprain) is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session on Sunday. If all goes well, he could be ready to come off the disabled list, Wedge said.

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

On television
• STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Monday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 7-7, 3.93) vs. White Sox (John Danks, 12-10, 3.82), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Justin Masterson, 4-9, 4.79) vs. White Sox (Carlos Torres, 1-1, 5.91), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Fausto Carmona, 4-12, 6.62) vs. White Sox (Jake Peavy, 8-6, 3.75), 7:05 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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