CLEVELAND -- It was fairly obvious the Indians would need to bring in some assistance, in the form of veteran right-hander Vinnie Chulk, for their bullpen after Friday's marathon loss to the Blue Jays. What wasn't expected was that Chulk would take the roster spot of Friday's starter. But left-hander Scott Lewis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left elbow strain Saturday. Lewis, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery at the end of his junior season at Ohio State in 2003, had an MRI exam on the elbow, and the elbow didn't appear to have structural damage, according to manager Eric Wedge.
"I think it's just going to be a muscle soreness thing," Wedge said after Saturday's game. "As scenarios go, it was probably the best-case scenario, in regard to what [the doctors] saw or didn't see. Hopefully we can use this time to get him back on track." In the meantime, the Indians have to figure out what to do with Lewis' rotation spot. His next turn would have come Wednesday in Kansas City. "We're not sure what we're going to do with that just yet," Wedge said. Down at Triple-A Columbus, left-handers David Huff, Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey and veteran right-hander Kirk Saarloos are all candidates for a callup, with Sowers and Laffey already on the 40-man roster. Huff pitched the Clippers' season opener Thursday, and Laffey and Saarloos were scheduled to pitch in a doubleheader in Louisville on Saturday. Wedge said long reliever Zach Jackson is also an option, as he is built up enough to handle being slid over into a starting role. The Indians awarded the 25-year-old Lewis a rotation job on March 25. He beat out five other candidates for the job, and he wanted to prove he deserved it. When the elbow began "barking" at him, as he put it, he thought it was standard spring soreness that would fade away quickly. Lewis' last two Cactus League starts weren't good ones. He gave up 15 runs on 21 hits in 6 2/3 innings and told reporters the dry air was affecting his ability to grip the ball. He had one last spring tuneup in a Minor League intrasquad, but that was merely a three-inning warmup. Lewis said the elbow gave him trouble the more he pitched and the more he got up and down between innings. "It kept getting worse, and I think that's why I haven't been finishing pitches," he said. "I had been over-rotating my changeup and putting extra stress on it. It's just not calming down with treatment. Hopefully it's just tendinitis or something and the shutdown will help." Lewis worked 4 1/3 innings in Friday's 13-7 loss, giving up four runs on seven hits. "Wedge came out at the right time," Lewis said. "It was gradually getting tighter as the game went on. The last pitch I threw was when I really felt something. I didn't really want to throw another pitch, and I didn't want to call anybody out there, either." Lewis is the third Indians' player to land on the disabled list in the last two weeks. He joins outfielder David Dellucci (left calf strain) and infielder Jamey Carroll (broken bone in left hand). As for Chulk, his addition gives the Indians eight relievers in the 'pen, for the time being. Chulk had a strong spring camp as a non-roster invitee, posting a 1.72 ERA in nine exhibition outings. But the Indians gave their last bullpen spot to Jackson because of the length he can provide, and that length was already called upon in Thursday's loss to the Rangers. Chulk, who has made 244 relief appearances in the Majors with the Blue Jays and Giants since 2003, pitched two scoreless innings in the Clippers' 12-4 victory over Louisville in Thursday's season opener, and he worked 2 1/3 innings against the Jays, allowing a run on four hits, in relief of Cliff Lee on Saturday. The Indians might give Chulk, whose contract was purchased from Columbus, an extended look, as he is out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent back down. "I'm here to contribute and help us win some ballgames," Chulk said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.