October 25, 2014

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Hard-knock season for Tribe rookie pitcher Huff

Cleveland’s David Huff pitches against Seattle on Friday in Cleveland. (AP photo.)

Cleveland’s David Huff pitches against Seattle on Friday in Cleveland. (AP photo.)

CLEVELAND — It’s been on-the-job training this season for the youngest member of the Indians rotation, 24-year-old left-hander David Huff.

So far, the San Diego Calif., native, hasn’t been laid off, producing results that are typical of a young pitcher that has been forced to the big leagues prematurely.

“I think he’s going through everything he should be going through as a first-year guy,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, who called on Huff from Triple-A Columbus in May to replace injured fourth starter Anthony Reyes.

“He goes out there each and every time and he learns something. I think he has a pretty good feel for the game as a young pitcher. He’s going to continue to get better.”

Huff’s statistics seem to support as much. After pitching poorly early, he’s improved. He tossed eight shutout innings on just four hits in a victory at Pittsburgh on June 23 — his best effort of the season.

Prior to that (June 12) against stiffer competition in the Cardinals, Huff pitched the Indians to a win, allowing three runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings.

But there have been too many five-inning efforts, as Huff struggles to find a measure of consistency – something he admits is the toughest part of pitching every five days in the majors.

“I’m just trying to keep our team in it every time I go out there,” said Huff, who is 4-4 with a 6.60 ERA in 12 starts. “So far, I go out there and do it. Sometimes I haven’t. I’m just trying to find consistency.

“The more consistent you are the better off you are. I’ve just got to figure it out.”

Solving hitters on a regular basis is a lot to ask of a pitcher making his debut in the big leagues and seeing some of the game’s best hitters for the first time.

It’s been a challenge for Huff, a sandwich draft pick of the Indians (39th overall) between the first and second rounds in 2006 out of UCLA.

“You go in and check out videos and watch what they do against pitchers similar to you,” said Huff, who went a combined 11-5 with a 2.52 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) last year for Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Akron. “As you’re out there, you just kind of read the swings and see what kind of swings they’re putting on certain pitches, and just learning.”

Learning is what Huff has been doing since coming to training camp as one of three candidates to win the fifth spot in Cleveland’s rotation, a job that went to Scott Lewis, who made one start before being lost for the season to an elbow injury.

He’s produced enough positive results to remain in the rotation and on the Indians’ radar in the future.
“You can tell he’s a great competitor,” Wedge said. “I like how he doesn’t give in. He doesn’t let the game speed up on him and he’s all-in with every pitch.

“He has the potential to be a good starting pitcher at this level. He’s been very encouraging.”

Tonight

  • Who: Cleveland at Toronto
  • When: 7:07
  • Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto
  • Pitchers: Lee (5-9, 3.31 ERA) vs. Cecil (3-1, 5.40)
  • TV/radio:SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.