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08/23/08 9:25 PM ET
Closer is Tribe's offseason priority
Continued good work from Lewis could eliminate need
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Jensen Lewis has converted five straight saves for the Indians, which is a season high for the club. Nevertheless, manager Eric Wedge isn't going to commit to him as being the team's stopper for next season just yet. With an entire offseason's worth of possibilities out there for the Indians -- whether through free agency or via trades -- Wedge doesn't want to speak too soon. "Let's just see how it plays out," Wedge said. "[Lewis] has done a very good job in a short amount of time. We still have five weeks left. By then, I'll be able to tell you how he fits in long-term." That's not to say Wedge isn't grateful. That's not even to say Wedge doesn't believe in Lewis' potential as a closer. The final three months of the regular season last year, Lewis went 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 34 strikeouts to 10 walks. In the playoffs, he made seven appearances, allowing runs in three appearances for a 4.70 ERA despite having seven strikeouts to no walks. "He proved himself as a back-end-of-the-bullpen guy last season, so we already knew he was capable of pitching in pressure situations," Wedge said. What Lewis has shown his manager the last year and a half has left an impression, no doubt. But with the revolving door of pitchers to try the closer role for the Tribe this season, it's hard to blame Wedge for not settling on a pitcher who's been closing games for two weeks. As of Saturday, Wedge still plans on a proven closer being the Indians' No. 1 priority during the offseason. After that, the club will look at options for the starting rotation and either a corner outfielder or infielder to add more pop to the lineup. "Without a doubt, that's our priority," Wedge said. "We'll probably look at getting a starting pitcher, and there's a possibility of looking at another corner guy. But the closer thing is at the front."
Shawn Shoyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.