Wickman called upon to aid faltering bullpen
The Indians also designated for assignment reliever Jose Jimenez, who was 1-7 with a 8.42 ERA. The club has 10 days to release, trade or outright the right-hander to the minors.
Wickman hasn't pitched in the majors since Aug. 10, 2002, but Cleveland is hoping he can help their leaky bullpen, which has a league low 13 saves.
Wickman pitched the eighth inning Tuesday night against Texas, allowing one hit and striking out one batter in a 4-1 win.
He said before the game that he'd be as nervous as a rookie when the bullpen phone rang.
"Oh man, it's going to be great," he said. "I just hope I don't get hurt running from the bullpen to the mound."
The 35-year-old Wickman, who has 66 saves since joining Cleveland in 2000, planned to start this season with the team, but strained his right elbow in spring training and has spent the last three months in rehabilitation.
For now, Wickman will pitch in a setup role for David Riske, Cleveland's fourth closer this season.
Manager Eric Wedge said the club will bring Wickman back slowly, and not risk him hurting his arm again.
"It's been two years since Bob pitched," he said. "People are assuming he's going to pick up right where he left off. But out of fairness to Bob, he's had to work hard to get to this point. We'll have to see how he does."
Wickman missed the entire 2003 season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his elbow. He pitched as long as he could with a torn ligament during 2002 before having to call it quits in August.
Although he was hurt, Wickman had 20 saves in 36 appearances before it became too painful to pitch. In 2001, he went 5-0 with a 2.39 ERA and 32 saves.
Wickman plans to make the most of what could be his final three months with the Indians, who acquired him in a trade with Milwaukee just before the trading deadline in 2000.
Wickman is signed for $6 million through 2004 with the club holding an option for 2005.
"I've got three months left of the contract and I'm going to give it everything I've got," he said. "I want to live up to that contract. I feel like I've let the Indians down."
Jimenez was another disastrous signing for the Indians.
On Monday, the club designated Scott Stewart, acquired in an offseason trade with Montreal, for assignment. Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro signed Jimenez to a one-year, $1 million free agent contract in January.
Jimenez went 2-10 with a 5.22 ERA and 20 saves last season for Colorado. The Indians can only wish he would have been that good for them.
Wedge says there's an outside chance Stewart and Jimenez could rejoin the team, but that appears highly unlikely given the way they pitched.
"They're not the first relievers who have had some success in the past and then struggled," he said. "You never know."
Ironically, Jimenez pitched well in relief of C.C. Sabathia on Monday night, not allowing an earned run in four innings.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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