Pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who won his 13th game for the Indians Saturday, said he had a good time playing for the Scrappers.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- Most major league players would not compare the Mahoning Valley with the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame city.
C.C. Sabathia is not your typical major-league pitcher.
Saturday, the 21-year-old fire throwing left-hander defeated the Anaheim Angels, 4-2, for his 13th victory of the season.
With Dave Burba, Charles Nagy, Jaret Wright and Chuck Finley all struggling to rebound from injuries and up-and-down performances, Sabathia has emerged with Bartolo Colon as the Tribe's most consistent starting pitchers.
Jells: "C.C. has been good all year," Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar said. "Some other guys have been struggling, but he's been a plus for us. That's the way baseball goes. He's found his place.
"Everyday he goes out, he learns," Alomar said. "He has a great arm with a good fastball and he's been learning to make adjustments. He's a young guy -- he's going to get better when he gets to know the players and the league."
Sabathia, who made six starts for the Scrappers in their inaugural season, split last year between Class A Kinston and Double A Akron.
With Nagy and Wright sidelined with arm injuries during spring training, Sabathia earned a starting spot.
Favorite: Four-and-a-half months later, he's become a favorite.
"It seems like it's been five years," said Sabathia of his short time with the Scrappers.
"I loved Niles. The fan support was just like I get here, just on a smaller scale," Sabathia said. "We were packed every night and it was a lot of fun. Everyone knew you around town.
"I had a lot of fun, but it was definitely preparing me for something bigger because of the fan support and the way the city treated you."
Recovers: Saturday, Sabathia had to overcome a shaky second inning when the Angels scored twice on Tim Salmon's 12th homer of the season.
Sabathia responded by retiring the next 12 batters.
"The thing I like about C.C. is that he doesn't get upset," said Indians manager Charlie Manuel. "If something bothers him, he drops it quick and makes adjustments."
Sabathia said playing on an offensive powerhouse like the Indians gives him confidence.
"I know this team is going to score runs," Sabathia said. "You know we're going to score more runs than two, so you know you can go out and make some mistakes and still win the game."
Curve ball sharp: Manuel said Sabathia's curve ball was especially sharp Saturday.
Sabathia agreed. "My curve ball of late has been pretty good, as has my fastball," he said. "I haven't been throwing too many change-ups because my curve ball has been so good. [Today], my velocity and everything was up."
Manuel said his staff is watching Sabathia closely because he has never pitched in such a long season. When asked if he has seen sign of Sabathia "hitting the wall," Manuel said no.
Now with 135 innings, Sabathia said he's not thinking about his long season.
"I'm just take it one start at a time," Sabathia said. "I feel stronger than I did in April. With the weather being a little nicer, my arm feels real [well]."
Despite his success, Sabathia says pitching in the majors is "still nerve-racking, definitely. The way I've been this year, you never know what to expect out of me, but it's been fun.
"I have a better game plan than at the beginning of the season because I've faced a couple of these teams before and I know what I've got to do to get guys out."
Team's stopper: What he has been, as the Tribe contends for their sixth playoff spot in seven years, is the team's stopper over the past two weeks.
His last three victories have followed Indians losses. The Indians are 18-7 in the 25 games he has started.
And in his 16 starts since June 1, Sabathia has posted an 8-2 record with a 3.86 earned-run average.
He's also happy that former Akron Aero teammates David Riske and Danys Baez are contributing to this year's Indians.
"We all played together last year," Sabathia said. "Riske and I are good friends it feels good for us to be up here and doing so well."