Talbot Breaks Through





CLEVELAND—He'd been labeled a 4-A player, a guy who can compete just fine at Triple-A, but wouldn't cut it in the major leagues.

He'd won 13 games in consecutive seasons in 2007 and '08, but was limited to just 54 innings last season while battling elbow and shoulder injuries. So when righthander Mitch Talbot came to the Indians in the offseason trade that sent veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach to the Rays, all Talbot asked of his new bosses was a fair chance after eight seasons in the minors.

Talbot, who was out of minor league options, got his wish when he clinched the Tribe's fourth spot in the rotation as spring training camp neared its end.

"I'd probably still be at Tampa Bay, if they could put me back in the minors," Talbot said. "I know they liked my stuff, but I never got a decent shot to play."

Talbot, 26, has more hits allowed (401) in his career than innings pitched (376) and strikeouts (305). Yet, his upside is that he doesn't allow many walks or home runs.

"Sometimes, a guy is just blocked getting to the majors because they had so many good young arms in Tampa," Indians manager Manny Acta said.

Talbot's only big league time came in 2008 when he gave up 12 runs in 92⁄3 innings over three appearances, including one start.

"(I've been) developing a slider the past two years," he said. "I already threw a curveball, but my pitching coach said he didn't like it very much. It wasn't very sharp."

With the curveball shelved, Talbot's slider has become one of his best pitches.

"I would throw a couple of good ones here and there," Talbot said of his early trials with his slider. "It was getting close last year, then I got hurt. I threw it in (the Arizona Fall League), and now it feels pretty good. From what I hear, (Indians pitching coach) Tim Belcher is pretty excited about it."

SMOKE SIGNALS

• Lefthander Jeremy Sowers, the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus.  

• Righthander Hector Ambriz, the club's major league Rule 5 pick, began the season on the disabled list with right elbow tendonitis. Once his rehab assignment with Columbus ends, the  Indians will have to work out a trade with the Diamondbacks if they want to keep Ambriz in the minors.