04/10/10 5:19 PM ET
Verlander, Westbrook eye redemption
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The contrast is stark, the details telling. Verlander went 4-0 against Cleveland last year, striking out 40 batters in 30 innings. The year before, the right-hander worked to a 1-5 record with a 6.49 ERA against the Indians. Verlander saw his better results factor into a 19-9 record and a 3.45 ERA in 2009, one year after he'd struggled to an 11-17 mark and a 4.84 ERA.
The Indians, meanwhile, will counter with veteran Jake Westbrook, who is attempting to come back from a year spent on the sidelines. Westbrook missed virtually all of last season while recovering from an elbow injury that required surgery in 2008, and this year, the right-hander showed a little rust by tying a franchise record with four wild pitches in his season debut.
Cleveland has begun to supplement its offense with some small ball, and manager Manny Acta has said that he likes his players to use his outs productively. In fact, Acta said Saturday that he likes the bunt as a strategic element.
"We encourage guys to drag-bunt on their own," he said, taking advantage of his team's speed and control of the bat. "We have a few guys who can do that and we like to leave it up to them when to [play small ball] at times."
Indians: Acta likes team chemistry
Acta, the team's first-year manager, is enthusiastic about his team's mix. He likes that he has veterans like Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta on hand, but he also thinks his team has some upside. With Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo maturing and youngsters like Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley chipping in, Cleveland has options.
"I really like our team," said Acta. "I know we have some young guys who we're counting on, but we have some speed, we have some guys who can bunt and move runners along. We have a nice mix of veterans and younger guys. Every now and then we have some guys who can swing for the fences."
Tigers: Ordonez remains hot
Magglio Ordonez remains red-hot through the first week of the season, even if he cooled off a bit on Saturday. Detroit's All-Star outfielder had four straight multi-hit games before Saturday, but he settled for one hit -- a homer -- in the Tigers' 4-2 victory. Ordonez is batting .476 through the first five games, helping to pace the Tigers from the three-hole in the lineup.
Ordonez also drew a walk in Saturday's game, giving cleanup man Miguel Cabrera another RBI opportunity. Cabrera is hitting .450 thus far through the season, and he's leading the Tigers in RBIs (seven). Outfielder Johnny Damon, who was imported this winter to help set the table, walked twice on Saturday but is hitting .150 thus far this season.
The Indians haven't been above the break-even mark since the second-to-last day of the 2008 season. ... Eight of Cleveland's 29 players on either the active roster or disabled list hail from outside the United States, giving the Indians a roughly similar percentage (27.6) of foreign players as the league at large (27.7). ... Westbrook hasn't beaten the Tigers since August of the 2006 season. ... Gerald Laird, still seeking his first hit, is expected to return to the lineup Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.