Other items: Cabrera's hot; good seats available; status quo for pitching rotation

Aaron Laffey has heard the admonition before — Little League pitchers shouldn’t be throwing curveballs.

“Unless they throw it right,” Laffey adds as a qualifier.

Perhaps Charlie Brown spent most of his youth baseball career throwing a “straight ball” to Linus and Lucy, but Laffey took a different route. Cleveland’s 22-year-old left-hander never threw a four-seam fastball or a changeup until he was in the minors. It was the two-seam sinking fastball that eventually became his best friend and got him to the big leagues.

“My dad taught me to keep the ball down in the zone and that’s what we worked on, bullpen after bullpen,” Laffey said. “It’s worked so far.”

Steve Laffey was a boyhood friend and high school teammate of Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone in Westernport, Md. The younger Laffey said his father played four years of baseball at Frostburg State (Md.) and would often tap Mazzone for advice when Mazzone would come home for the winter after pitching in the minor leagues.

“That’s a lot of baseball knowledge,” Aaron Laffey said.

Laffey has put that knowledge to good use, rising from 16th-round draft pick in June of 2003 to the No. 5 spot in Cleveland’s starting rotation this summer. He has done so without the overpowering fastball that gets many young pitchers to the big leagues quickly.

“I’m lucky I have a good sinker, because it’s helped me get out of a lot of jams and a lot of situations when I’ve been behind in the count,” Laffey said. “I don’t always throw the sinker at the same speed, either. Sometimes I pull out my ‘BP sinker.’ I explode out, then kill it at the end. It just floats in there, like an ‘eephus’ sinker or something.”

Laffey added the four-seam fastball and changeup to his arsenal in 2004, and uses both on occasion.

Six big-league starts and only one loss (3-1, 5.29 ERA) from a raw rookie would lead one to believe Laffey’s father was on to something. The younger Laffey allowed one earned run over five innings Sunday during a nationally televised 6-2 victory at Anaheim.

“I was probably more nervous (Sunday) than in my big-league debut,” Laffey said. “It was a big game, and I knew Detroit had lost already. I’m just lucky I had the good sinker going.”


COMING UP  The series continues tonight at 8:11. Paul Byrd (14-6, 4.34) will start against John Danks (6-13, 5.41).

A FAST START  Rookie INF Asdrubal Cabrera came into Monday with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was batting .375 (12-for-32), improving his season average to .316. Cabrera has 12 RBIs and 10 multi-hit games in his first 26 games.

GOOD SEATS AVAILABLE  The Indians said Monday that no more than 27,000 seats have been sold for any game in next week’s key series against Detroit at Jacobs Field.


BIG JIM  White Sox slugger Jim Thome came into the series with 498 career home runs and is seeking to become the 23rd player in big-league history with 500 homers. “I hope we don’t see it,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said. “I hope he does it against somebody else.”

STAY THE COURSE  Wedge said the Indians will maintain the order of their starting pitching rotation, even after Thursday’s scheduled off day.

ON THE FARM  Double-A Akron opens the Eastern League championship series tonight at Trenton. RHP Adam Miller will start for the Aeros, but will be limited to three innings or 55 pitches. LHP Chuck Lofgren will start Game 2 on Wednesday. The series shifts to Canal Park for the final three games, with LHP Jeremy Sowers scheduled to start Game 3 on Friday.

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail andy.call@cantonrep.com.