June 11, 2007
The following excerpt ran in Chris Jackson's Minor League Notebook in the June 10th edition of the South Bay Daily Breeze.
Jeff Stevens is slowly but surely getting used to the state of Ohio.
That's probably a good thing, since he is a Cleveland Indians pitching prospect.
The former Loyola Marymount right-hander was acquired in a trade last season from the Reds for major league second baseman Brandon Phillips. Stevens was assigned to low-single-A Lake County, in a Cleveland suburb, for the bulk of the 2006 season.
After a brief detour to high single-A Kinston (N.C.) this season, Stevens pitched his way back to Ohio, earning a promotion to double-A Akron at the end of May.
"Ohio, it's unpredictable, you never know what (weather) you're going to get," Stevens said with a laugh. "One day it will be 85 degrees, the next day it's pouring rain. It's not like California. I miss that."
Stevens went 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 15 relief appearances at Kinston. In 35 innings, he allowed just 18 hits and nine walks while striking out 37.
Since his promotion to Akron, he's pitched in four games, totaling 7-2/3 innings while allowing six hits, two walks and striking out seven.
"It's been great," Stevens said of the long relief role. "I was a starter for pretty much all of last year. Being in the long relief role in Kinston, you throw everything you've got. You can throw whatever you want.
"It went real well. I was on a set schedule; it was almost like I was still starting. Here in Akron it's going to be a little bit different."
The difference is that the former Lion will be called upon whenever he's needed, rather than sticking to a set schedule.
Another difference for Stevens will be to master a third pitch to go with his fastball and curveball.
"I'll mix in a changeup here and there," Stevens said. "That's been the toughest for me to throw (for strikes). They force you to throw it here, so you can learn to use it. I figure it doesn't hurt to have three (out pitches)."
Stevens has enjoyed his time with the Indians organization so far.
"This is my first full year with the Indians," said Stevens, a sixth-round pick of the Reds in 2005. "With this organization, if guys are doing well, they'll move you up. I'm very happy here."
Stevens has also enjoyed playing on such a prospect-laden squad. The Indians have assigned eight of their top 30 prospects, as ranked by Baseball America, to Akron.
Included in that group is outfielder Brian Barton (Westchester), who was ranked fifth in the organization and has hit .305 (61-for-200) with nine home runs and 30 RBIs this season.
"There's a lot of prospects on this team," Stevens said. "Everyone's pretty much down to earth, for the most part. Their paths are all different, but now everyone here is doing the same thing. We have a very good team. We have a very fun clubhouse."
Around the minors: The next candidates to earn promotions include outfielder Chris Pettit (LMU), who's batting .359 (70-for-195) with eight home runs, 35 RBIs and 15 stolen bases at single-A Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Angels); left-hander David Huff (UCLA), who's 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 starts at Kinston; and left-hander Paul Oseguera (UCLA), who's 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 starts at single-A San Jose (Giants).
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