ST. PETERSBURG -- The Indians have taken plenty of time to ease Esmil Rogers into things since he joined the club's bullpen via trade last month. Given his consistently strong results, Cleveland is starting to trust him in key situations.
That was clear on Wednesday night, when the Indians handed Rogers the ball with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. The righty escaped the jam with a strikeout and a groundout -- only using his curveball -- to help send the Indians on their way to a 10-6 win.
"Now he's stepping into higher leverage situations," Indans manager Manny Acta said on Thursday morning. "Yesterday, that was huge, not only for him, but for us. We trusted him to come into a bases-loaded, one-out type of deal. For him to get us out there had to be a big boost for him."
Rogers has arguably been the surprise of the season for the Tribe's relief corps.
When the Rockies traded the reliever to the Indians in exchange for cash on June 12, Rogers had an 8.06 ERA with 29 strikeouts against 18 walks through 25 2/3 innings. Through 14 appearances with Cleveland, though, he's posted a tidy 2.04 ERA, striking out 22 and walking just three in 17 2/3 innings.
The Indians did not make any changes to Rogers' pitch distribution or mechanics. The team only asked him to try to harness his fastball, which can touch 97-98 mph, without trying to be too fine. Along those lines, Cleveland's catchers have been told to set up in the middle of the plate, rather than trying to set pitches up over the edges.
"His strikeout-to-walk ratio is very, very good right now to say the least," Acta said. "When you have that type of stuff, and you attack the strike zone, more times than not you're going to be successful. He's gaining a lot of confidence right now."