By his own admission, right-hander Jim Brower had an up-and-down year on the mound at Dunn Tire Park. But he's been reborn since a September callup from the Bisons to Cleveland and will make his first major league start this afternoon against the New York Yankees at Jacobs Field.
Brower, who is 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in six relief outings since joining the Tribe Sept. 1, will be replacing Dwight Gooden in the Cleveland rotation and oppose New York's David Cone (11-8).
"For 5 1/2 years in the minor leagues, I've been working for this," said Brower, 26. "There's not a rookie jitter thing going on. I haven't been nervous because I've faced a lot of these guys before (in the minor leagues)."
Brower's confidence is showing. He didn't give up a run in his first 9 2/3 innings until allowing homers to Boston's Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek in the 13th inning of Wednesday's 6-4 loss. Opposing batters are just 7 for 36 against him.
Brower never thought any of this would be possible. He was 11-11 with a 4.73 ERA for the Bisons this year, leading the club in victories, starts (27) and innings pitched (160), but didn't think the Indians would give him a look come September.
"I had written it off," Brower admitted. "I wasn't a guy like Paul Rigdon, someone who the organization has marked as a prospect (after going a combined 14-4 this year at Buffalo and Double-A Akron). I've been around baseball long enough to know it's hard for them to validate pulling up a guy with average numbers.
"I felt like I had better than average stuff in Buffalo, but I can't hide the numbers because they don't show it."
Brower is 24-16 with a 3.87 ERA since joining the Tribe as a free agent in April, 1998. He was 13-5, 3.01 last year at Akron and joined the Bisons for the Triple-A World Series.
"I've put together a good string the last two years for the Indians," he said. "I like playing for them and I'm glad I got the opportunity to come up here. I feel real good out there, real comfortable. Hopefully, I'll get a shot to pitch more often."
The Indians have apparently given up on Gooden (3-4, 6.38 ERA in 24 appearances). He's not expected to make their postseason roster nor have his option for next season picked up by the club.
Meanwhile, Cone will be starting on four days rest for the first time since going a career-low 1 2/3 innings Aug. 24 against Texas.
Since throwing a perfect game July 18 against Montreal, he's just 1-4, 4.42 in 10 starts. Shoulder stiffness has been the chief reason and Cone has thrown just once a week in September because of it.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter went 2 for 4, giving him 200 hits for the season. He's the first Yankee to have at least 200 in back-to-back years since Don Mattingly did it three times from 1984-1986. . . . When Jim Thome reached the 100-RBI mark with a double in the first, it set a Cleveland franchise record for most 100-RBI men in a season. Manny Ramirez (144), Richie Sexson (109) and Roberto Alomar (108) have already broken 100. . . . Of the 37 players currently on the Indians roster, 22 of them have seen action in Buffalo at some time in their careers. That includes five players (Dwight Gooden, Mark Langston, Sandy Alomar, Travis Fryman and Jim Thome) whose only work with the Bisons has come on injury rehabilitation assignments. . . . Several Indians played with Seattle-based band Magic Bus in a charity concert Saturday night in Cleveland's Flats entertainment district. Sexson (guitar), Omar Vizquel (drums), Carlos Baerga (drums) and Thome (maracas) took part at the urging of pitcher Mark Langston, a friend of the group who also played guitar.