Masterson zips up to starting role

Masterson zips up to starting role

CHICAGO -- Justin Masterson expected to join the Indians' starting rotation at some point sooner rather than later.

But even Masterson was caught a bit off guard by just how soon that leap from reliever to starter actually transpired.

"I was thinking either [Friday] or [Saturday] to throw out of the 'pen again," Masterson said. "But, hey, we get a start. I don't mind. That's OK. I'll take it."

On Friday, Masterson became the Indians' fifth starter when veteran righty Carl Pavano was claimed off waivers and dealt to the Twins. He will take Pavano's spot in the rotation, beginning with a start on Saturday against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

Masterson, acquired in a trade with the Red Sox before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, was supposed to throw two or three relief outings before being considered for a starting spot.

Instead, he made one relief appearance while with the Indians, his first day with the team on Aug. 1. He threw 46 pitches in three innings of work, allowing no runs and two hits with four strikeouts.

"I haven't thrown as much as what was in our plans, but I feel like I'm ready to go," Masterson said. "The body feels good. Everything reacted well, so I think it will be good. I don't know what the pitch count will be, but hopefully we at least get five, maybe six [innings]. And if more, hey, that's fine with me."

The pitch count in all likelihood will be limited to 60 or 65 pitches as the Indians take their time stretching out Masterson for the season's final two months, according to bench coach Jeff Datz, who was filling in on Friday for manager Eric Wedge while he attended his mother-in-law's funeral.

Masterson, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound righty, has made six starts this season, but his last came on May 17 as a member of the Red Sox against the Mariners. Since that time, he has thrown strictly out of the bullpen, making 22 relief appearances.

Datz said he had been impressed with the 24-year-old Masterson's potential in a starting role.

"That's a big boy with a power arm," Datz said. "[He] has very quality stuff. So we're very excited about having him and are glad he's on our side now rather than us having to face him. He's a good one."

Masterson, who went from a playoff contender in Boston to a near cellar dweller in Cleveland, spoke highly of his first week with the Indians, saying the opportunity to pitch almost immediately made the transition easier. He will have gone a week without toeing the rubber when he takes the mound on Saturday, but he should receive a more set schedule now as he enters the starting rotation.

"It's definitely been a different and interesting experience," Masterson said, "but it hopefully will be something that will be good for myself and the career and, hopefully, the Indians."

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Justin Masterson (3-3, 4.32 ERA)
Masterson, acquired on July 31 in a trade with the Red Sox for All-Star Victor Martinez, has made six starts this season but has not started a game since May 17. He has appeared in three games lifetime against the White Sox, all in relief, and has allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings.

CWS: RHP Carlos Torres (0-0, 4.50 ERA)
The White Sox officially sent down reliever Jhonny Nunez to Triple-A Charlotte after Friday's loss and called up Torres for Saturday's spot-start. Torres made his Major League debut on July 22 against the Rays, throwing six innings and allowing three runs on six hits in a no-decision. The 26-year-old is 9-4 with a 2.21 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 110 innings pitched for the Knights.

Tidbits
Kelly Shoppach is hitting .474 (9-for-19) with eight RBIs in his last five games. He also has hit three home runs and notched nine RBIs in his last two games against the White Sox. ... The Indians grounded into six double plays on Friday night, tying the American League record. It marked the second time in team history. Cleveland also grounded into six double plays against Washington on Aug. 5, 1948. ... On Friday, Jeremy Sowers threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 29 batters he faced. Sowers credited keeping the ball down in the zone for his success. "I was able to throw all three pitches for a strike and for the most part kept it down in the zone, so that when I made a mistake, I had a little bit more wiggle room because they were perhaps more focused on balls being down in the zone," Sowers said.

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Up next
• Sunday: Indians (David Huff, 5-6, 6.81) at White Sox (Jose Contreras, 4-10, 4.95), 2:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 5-3, 3.58) vs. Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 8-6, 4.92), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jesse Temple is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.