Thursday, May 25, 2006

See C.C.

The Indians have a left-handed starting pitcher who is tearing up opposing batting orders right now.
The amazing thing is, it isn't Cliff Lee.
If anybody was going to be a Cy Young Award candidate, win 20 games, and have an all-around tremendous season, Lee would have been my first choice after winning 18 games and appearing on the Cy Young radar last season.
But, much like the rest of the pitching staff, Lee (3-4, 4.65 ERA) is mired in mediocrity.
No, you're silver bullet happens to be a cannonball: 6'-7", 300-pound C.C. Sabathia. You know, the guy who has turned inconsistency and weight-related injuries into an art form the past few seasons.
When C.C. strained his oblique muscle on opening night and missed a month, we all rolled our eyes. Here we go again, we said, another season of C.C. posting a 5-plus ERA in the first half as he plays himself into shape.
Couldn't C.C. lay off the Zima and Ho-Ho's and lift some dumbbells for at least one off-season in his career?
But something happened during that month out of commission. Maybe it was a wake-up call. Maybe it was the product of the Indians training staff watching C.C. like a hawk. Whatever happened, C.C. has bounded off the disabled list to the tune of a 4-1 record. Even the lone loss to Detroit was by a 2-1 score.
C.C.'s 1.52 ERA would lead the majors if he had enough innings to qualify for the books.
Previously a flamethrower with a short shelf life, C.C. has begun to transform into a pitcher, throwing off-speed stuff that actually has teeth, unlike previous seasons, when his curveball was a joke and his change-up a work in progress.
C.C. now sits low-90s with most of his pitches, trying to work to both sides of the plate. He still has the high-90s heater in his cache, but it's far more a threat than a promise for a hitter.
He has begun working a lineup like rotation-mate Jake Westbrook, getting outs early in the count when he can, which in turn lengthens his outings. Wednesday, he pitched a complete-game shoutout win over the Twins. In his two prior starts, he went eight innings each.
It's too early to talk accolades, but C.C. is pitching like an elite pitcher. Time will tell if C.C. can sustain his success, and if the .500-ish Indians can do anything with it.

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