CLEVELAND -- Jeremy Sowers sat with the assembled media before Saturday's game against the Reds, every bit as polished and poised in front of a microphone as he is on a pitcher's mound. "I'm just trying to find my routine here," Sowers said. "It was nice that I was able to get up here a couple days early, and especially today, getting out on the field, take part in batting practice and stretching, just familiarizing myself with this atmosphere." This is where the Indians expected Sowers to be when they used the sixth overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft to take the Vanderbilt left-hander.
The Reds also hoped, if not entirely expected, Sowers to one day climb the pitching mound at Great American Ball Park. They took Sowers with the 20th overall selection in the 2001 lottery when Sowers was coming out of high school. He made it clear he wanted to attend Vanderbilt, and the Reds couldn't overwhelm him with cash. "It's completely ironic," Sowers said. "Go figure. Especially considering they're a National League team, the odds are not very great. But it'll be fun. It's a nice little, I guess, story, that they drafted me and that it didn't work out. "But I just wanted to go play college baseball more than I wanted to play professional baseball at the time. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Reds organization." But the past being past, it was the immediate future that was on Sowers' mind Saturday. Sowers, who was 9-1 with a 1.39 ERA in Buffalo, acknowledged some nervousness about his Sunday start. "I'm going to be extremely nervous," Sowers said. "But at the same time, I'm just going to try to stay within myself, pitch my game and treat it like anything else I've been doing all year." Of interest in Sowers' Minor League statistics is his strikeout rate. In his first Minor League season, 2005, Sowers struck out 8.4 batters per nine innings, almost one an inning. This year, however, at Buffalo, his strikeout rate fell to under five K's per nine innings. "It's more an idea of pitching toward contact," Sowers said. "As you climb up the ladder, these hitters are smarter and they're better and they do a much better job of putting the ball in play. "Last year was kind of like a one-to-one, inning pitched to strikeout ratio. This year it's a lot different. But at the same time, I've pitched more innings per start, I've kept my pitch count down, I've had more double plays, I've kept the ball on the ground more. When I see hitters now, I try to think more of, 'I'm going to make them mishit the ball,' versus making them swing through. These guys up here don't swing and miss too much."
Sowers averaged more than 6.5 innings per start at Triple-A this year, as opposed to 5.8 innings per start at three different Minor League starts in 2005. He said he's expecting roughly 20-25 family members to be in attendance at Sunday's game, plus countless friends. "I could get into specifics, but it's a long list," Sowers joked. Michaels to the DL: To make room for Sowers on the 25-man roster, the Indians placed Jason Michaels on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 16. Michaels sprained his right ankle while trying to rob a Bernie Williams home run on May 15 in Yankee Stadium. The Indians have been observing the ankle and letting Michaels attempt to work back into game shape. But after doing agility exercises before Friday's game, Michaels' ankle still wasn't healed enough to allow him to play. And with the Indians needing a roster spot for Sowers, Michaels was placed on the DL. "He's not rested as quickly as he would have hoped or we would have hoped," head trainer Lonnie Soloff said. "But he is improving." Soloff said that Michaels will resume baseball activities next week. On Monday and Tuesday, he will run the bases and field balls in left field. The team is optimistic Michaels will be able to play when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on July 1. Equipment drive: The Indians will team up with The Baseball Tomorrow Fund to collect used baseball equipment at Jacobs Field on Sunday before the game against the Reds. Fans are invited to donate equipment, all of which will be donated to the Cleveland Baseball Federation. Also on Sunday, the BTF will donate $5,000 to the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland. Here's the question: Who holds the Indians record for most innings pitched in a single game? Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo fell to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, 14-9, Friday. Jake Gautreau was 1-for-4 with a home run. Jason Alfaro was 3-for-5 with an RBI. Jeremy Guthrie started, but gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, though just one was earned. ... Double-A Akron beat Binghamton, 9-2, on Friday. Dan Denham took the win with six innings pitched and two earned runs allowed. He struck out four and walked only one. Ryan Mulhern was 1-for-3 with an RBI. ... Class A Kinston beat Salem, 11-7. Rodney Choy Foo was 2-for-3 with two walks. Stephen Head was 1-for-3 with three walk. ... Class A Lake County beat Delmarva, 4-1. Carlton Smith took the win and pitched five innings, with three walks and five strikeouts. John Drennen was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. ... Mahoning Valley of the New York Penn League beat Williamsport, 5-2. Adam Davis was 0-for-5 with a strikeout and an RBI in his professional debut. Jason Denham was 2-for-4. Joshua Tomlin started and went three innings with five strikeouts ... The GCL Indians lost to the Tigers, 15-5. Luis Rincon was 3-for-5 with a home run. Tribe tidbits: Victor Martinez was back behind the plate after starting Friday at first base. ... Rookie utility man Joe Inglett made his first Major League start, playing left field Saturday. ... Since May 21, Paul Byrd is 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA entering Saturday. ... The Indians have scored nine or more runs in a game 15 times....The Tribe is 23-17 all-time against the Reds since 1997... When Rafael Perez balked in the seventh inning of Friday's game, it was the first time all year the Tribe had been charged with one. ...The 3-0 defeat Friday was the first time in 105 games that the Indians had been shut out at home by an NL team. And the answer is: Stan Coveleski threw 19 innings in a game on May 14, 1918. On deck: The Indians and Reds finish their three-game series Sunday, when the Tribe sends left-hander Sowers to the hill in his Major League Debut. Right-hander Elizardo Ramirez (2-6, 3.69 ERA) will oppose him for the Reds. Game time is 1:05 p.m. ET.
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.