© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
10/11/07 8:40 PM ET
Notes: Lewis rises from anonymity
Product of farm system taking on greater 'pen role in playoffs
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The Rafaels and the cardiac-inducing closer they set up get the notoriety. Jensen Lewis, meanwhile, just continues to get the outs. Joining Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Joe Borowski, he's the unheralded fourth man helping out with the Tribe's back-end brilliance in the '07 season and the playoffs. The 23-year-old Lewis rose from the obscurity of the Minor Leagues on July 13 and has effortlessly worked himself into a prominent middle-relief role since. "It's awesome," Lewis said. "It's a confidence booster. You appreciate the situation and you know the role is something that's going to help the team win. That makes it even more motivating to get the job done." The job at hand is the Indians' advancement toward a World Series title. Lewis, who grew up a Tribe fan in Medina, Ohio, and, later, Cincinnati, appreciates that goal as much as anyone. He knows the history -- not just of the Omar Vizquels and Jim Thomes who couldn't quite get over the championship hump, but also of the core Indians players he shares a locker room with. "We're pitching for the guys who have played a long time here," Lewis said. "You understand the hierarchy, but you also understand the guys you're playing for, and you know they're playing for you, too. That's what makes it so special, is you have 25 guys on the same page who believe in the same goal." Lewis might have had a goal of helping this club out by the end of the '07 season, but to be 100-percent confident in it might have been viewed as unrealistic. After all, Lewis was hardly viewed as being on the organizational radar at the outset of the season, when he was converted from starting to relief work at Double-A Akron. The first month of the season saw him go through the necessary ups and downs that come with that adjustment. In early May, however, he scrapped his curveball for his slider -- after doing the exact opposite a year earlier, to speed his advancement to Double-A -- and found immediate results. Between Akron and Triple-A Buffalo, he had a 0.68 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 40 innings, from May 1 until his big league promotion. "It was a huge difference maker," Lewis said of that repertoire refinement. "That's probably the reason I'm here, more than anything. It gave me an out pitch, so hitters weren't sitting on my fastball. It did its purpose." Lewis has done his purpose out of the 'pen for the Tribe. He went 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 26 appearances for the Tribe, as 21 of his 26 outings were scoreless. And the postseason stage did nothing to intimidate him. He pitched one inning in Game 1 at Jacobs Field and another in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, plowing past all six batters he faced and striking out four of them. "It's one of those things where it's a dream come true and you don't want to wake up," Lewis said. "You want to keep it going and keep the momentum. Hopefully, we're having this same conversation next week and the week after that. Then I can really tell you how meaningful it is." Green to the scene: As was the case in their series with the Yankees, the Indians are fielding questions about their lack of postseason experience, relative to that of their opponent. Many of the Red Sox, of course, have been to the American Leauge Championship Series before. Boston's players have a combined 126 games of LCS experience under their belts. The Indians, at 63 games, have exactly half of that, with 33 of the 63 coming from postseason regular Kenny Lofton. The Red Sox have eight players who have played in at least five LCS games. The Indians have two -- Lofton and Trot Nixon.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.