Indians Notebook: Barfield's day off; Cabrera talks; signing draft picks; on the farm.
Jensen Lewis never attended an Indians game in person until he was an Indian.
“I grew up a Cleveland fan, but I never saw a game here,” said the 23-year-old right-hander, who made his big-league debut Monday night against Chicago. “I promised myself I would never come here until I could come here as a player. I treated it like the altar. To make my first appearance here ... it was pretty storybook. It was like something you’d see in the movies.”
Lewis faced seven batters in the sixth and seventh innings, walking three, but escaped without allowing a run.
“That was definitely nerves,” Lewis said of the three walks. “I guess, with the emotion taking over, it was to be expected. I pretty much didn’t know where (the ball) was going. When I was warming up, I could tell you where I was, but I couldn’t feel anything. I kept telling myself to breathe, but I really couldn’t.”
Mike Lewis, Jensen’s father and a Medina native, was celebrating his birthday on the same night his son pitched in his first major-league game.
“That’s a pretty darn good birthday present, if you ask me,” Jensen Lewis said.
The younger Lewis graduated from Cincinnati’s Anderson High before pitching at Vanderbilt, but said he never considered becoming a Reds fan.
“It like the Bengals-Browns thing,” Lewis said. “You’re either one or the other.”
Lewis wore No. 13 in high school because his mother’s favorite player was Omar Vizquel. One of his favorite players was Jim Thome, who Lewis walked in the seventh inning.
“I saw Jim in the weight room (Tuesday) and told him the walk was intentional/unintentional because I didn’t want him to be the first player to get a hit off me,” Lewis said. “He told me not to worry about it.”
Lewis was not wild all night, throwing one fastball for a strike that was clocked at 94 mph. The Indians kept the baseball for Lewis after his first strikeout.
Because the Indians have several relief pitchers who are struggling, injured or inexperienced, Lewis has a chance to work his way into a more prominent role than simply “the new guy.”
“This is a unique opportunity,” Lewis said. “They wouldn’t have given me this opportunity unless they had a pretty good amount of confidence in me and I had had some success. I really feel like I can earn my stripes up here.”
COMING UP The series concludes this afternoon at 12:05. Jake Westbrook (1-4, 6.08) will start against Mark Buehrle (6-5, 2.98).
A DAY OFF Second baseman Josh Barfield, in a 1-for-15 slump and struggling defensively, was left out of Tuesday’s starting lineup. “He’s doing extra work defensively on the things he needs to work on,” Manager Eric Wedge said. Only two American League players with enough at-bats to qualify (Bobby Crosby, Craig Monroe) had a lower on-base percentage through Monday than Barfield’s .277.
LET’S TALK Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis met Tuesday with struggling relief pitcher Fernando Cabrera. “I do believe (his problems) are more mechanical than mental,” Wedge said. “He’s got long arms and long legs. When he gets into the (correct) slot, he’s got special stuff. He can be the guy we need.”
WHO’S NO. 1? Indians players are conducting a 16-man clubhouse tournament for the vintage video game RBI Baseball, originally released by Nintendo in 1988. Jake Westbrook, charged with formulating the tournament brackets, made Victor Martinez the No. 1 seed, Cliff Lee No. 2 and C.C. Sabathia No. 3. “They were yelling at (Indians special assistant) Robby Thompson the other day because (his video counterpart) was too slow,” Wedge said.
THE DOTTED LINE The Indians announced they have signed draft picks Joey Mahalic (32nd round, RHP, Portland, Ore.); Josh Judy (34, RHP, Indiana Tech) and Brian Juhl (35, C, Stanford).
ON THE FARM Double-A Akron utilityman Chris Gimenez had a hit and walked twice during Monday’s 7-4 loss to Harrisburg. He was named the Eastern League player of the week for last week, batting 9-for-19 (.474) with three doubles, three home runs, five RBIs and nine runs scored in five games.
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.