Call up takes Tribe's Sipp by surprise
Rookie brings laidback approach, lefty arm to bullpen
CLEVELAND -- Tony Sipp had just returned home from Triple-A Columbus' loss to Louisville on Tuesday night when Clippers manager Torey Lovullo called his cell phone and told him to come back to his office at Huntington Park."Coming up in school, you learn that if you're called to the office, you're in trouble," Sipp said. "So I'm thinking, 'What did I do? I didn't pitch [Tuesday], and I don't think I did anything to anybody in the locker room.'" When Sipp arrived, Lovullo told him he just wanted to see Sipp's reaction to the news that he was headed to the big leagues. The reaction was one anybody who's been around Sipp knows well -- a wide smile. And he's bringing that smile to a battered bullpen that has brought the Indians a few too many frowns in the early going this season. "I'm a guy who likes to laugh," Sipp said. "Maybe my weird personality will help out. I just want to contribute, even if it's just making people laugh on the bench." The left-handed Sipp, called up to take Zach Jackson's spot on the Tribe roster, will get a shot at making a much more substantial contribution than that.
Manager Eric Wedge said he's ready to use Sipp right away, and he was, inserting Sipp in for the ninth inning Wednesday. Sipp retired the Royals in order.With Rafael Perez struggling, the Indians felt they needed somebody equipped to handle late-inning, lefty-on-lefty situations. Sipp, who had a 3.86 ERA in seven innings over four appearances at Columbus, profiles better for that role than Jackson, who was a long man and not a matchup guy. "[Sipp] had a very impressive spring," Wedge said. "I like his mind-set and his heartbeat. He likes to have the ball in meaningful situations." This first call up to the Majors means a lot to the 25-year-old Sipp. He was a 45th-round Draft pick in 2004 -- the 1,337th overall selection -- out of Clemson, where he split his time between center field and the mound. Despite that low-profile selection, the Indians liked Sipp, and he really shot on their radar when he struck out 130 batters in 116 1/3 innings between Class A Lake County and Kinston in 2005. He was in Major League camp the following spring. Injuries, though, delayed Sipp's ascension to the Majors. A strained oblique and strained elbow limited him to 29 appearances at Double-A Akron in '06. He missed all of 2007 and most of 2008 after Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, and he had another medical setback when he suffered shoulder tendinitis during last fall's instructional league. If anything, those medical issues have made Sipp appreciate this opportunity all the more. "Now I have a background to how I got here," he said. "Not that I would be this way anyway, but I didn't want to come into this clubhouse with a chip on my shoulder. I've had a lot of time to myself the last couple years to figure everything out. The adversity helped." The Indians obviously hope Sipp can help them in the late innings. He does have his own issues to address. He struck out 10 batters in those seven innings with Columbus, but he also walked five. "Walks are one thing I'm trying to work on," he said. "That's my mind-set. What I want to do here is get ahead and throw strikes early." And smile, too. "I like to ease the tension," Sipp said. "That's how I deal with things."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.