OAKLAND -- It is a small sample of work, but Marc Rzepczynski has lived up to the expectations that came with him after the Indians acquired the left-handed reliever from the Cardinals prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Rzepczynski has returned to pitching to his strengths, which is an approach he feels he strayed from during his time with St. Louis this season.
"I wasn't pitching my game," Rzepczynski said. "In the close games, I threw what I wanted. But I think sometimes I got a little happy with just throwing fastballs and trying to get outs."
Through seven inning with the Indians, Rzepczynski hasn't allowed a run while holding batters to a .091 (2-for-22) average. Left-handed hitters -- his primary responsibility -- have gone just 1-for-12 against the reliever in his time with the Tribe.
With Cleveland, Rzepczynski has thrown 59.8 percent fastballs compared to 73.1 percent while with St. Louis earlier this season. He has also increased the use of his slider (up to 29.9 percent from 23.4 with the Cardinals) and changeup (10.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent in St. Louis).
Rzepczynski said part of the issue was poor execution on the pitches called by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. The left-hander said he threw more fastballs with the Cardinals this year, because Molina steered the pitcher in that direction.
"That's what Yadi called," Rzepczynski said. "But, if you execute a pitch, sometimes they're not going to get hit. I was following his lead. The motto in St. Louis is that you just don't shake Yadi off. He's so good."
In 11 games with St. Louis this season, Rzepczynski posted a 7.84 ERA in 10 1/3 innings and lefties hit at a .294 clip against him along the way. The lefty said that right-handed batters were sitting on fastballs to the outer half of the plate and having success taking them to the opposite field.
"I think what happened to him," Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash said, "just from talking to him, not that he blamed Yadi Molina, but he carries a lot of clout over there. Basically, you throw what he calls. I told him I could understand that, given [Molina's] reputation and everything. But over here, I said, 'You throw what you want to throw. Pitch to your strengths.'"
Rzepczynski emphasized that he was not blaming Molina for his struggles in St. Louis earlier this season.
"It's probably my fault for not throwing my game," Rzepczynski said. "Yadi's so good at what he does, but at the end of the day, I still have to throw what I want to throw. My strengths are I'm going to get righties to look away, but I'm going to also mix in some changeups and pound them inside when I have to. I wasn't doing that as much in St. Louis."
Rehabbing Tomlin eyeing September return
OAKLAND -- Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin made it a goal to come off the disabled list by the time he reached the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery. Tomlin will likely need to wait a little longer than he hoped.
Thursday will mark one year since Tomlin underwent reconstructive elbow surgery, but Indians manager Terry Francona said the right-hander will probably return to the pitching staff at some point after Sept. 1, when rosters are able to expand to 40 players.
"That'd be more realistic," Francona said prior to Saturday's game against the A's. "He's at four innings and we've got two weeks. That wouldn't be fair to him."
Tomlin, who is currently on the 60-day disabled list, logged four innings in a Minor League rehab outing for Double-A Akron on Friday. He allowed one run on two hits and finished with three strikeouts and no walks for the Aeros.
In seven Minor League rehab games, Tomlin has spun 12 1/3 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, five hits allowed and no walks issued.
"I'm very excited about the progress I've made so far, for sure," Tomlin said via text message. "I'd like to keep it going to be honest. I know it's not results based, but it feels good to have the results that I have been looking for. And for me, that's not walking anyone and being around the strike zone pretty consistently.
"My arm feels great and I'm very excited about joining the team whenever that may be. The main thing for me is that I'm able to bounce back pretty quick, not having any discomfort the day after or the days in between."
Tomlin went 5-8 with a 6.36 ERA in 21 appearances for Cleveland last season before being shelved with the elbow injury. In 2011, the right-hander enjoyed a breakout season, going 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA across 26 outings for the Tribe.
Francona indicated that Tomlin could potentially rejoin the Indians as a spot starter for September.
The manager also noted that Tim Belcher, a special assistant to the baseball operations department, and Tomlin's pitching coach with the Indians in 2011, was on hand in Akron to monitor the pitcher's latest performance.
"Belch was there and saw him," Francona said. "He said he had pretty good action on his two-seamer and his changeup was good. His command was pretty good. The curveball is probably the last one to maybe come, which I think is understandable. For the most part, Belch was pretty impressed."
Swisher fondly recalls time in Oakland
OAKLAND -- Nick Swisher stepped to the plate in the seventh inning on Friday night and the Coliseum crowd unleashed a chorus of boos. One day later, the Indians first baseman was laughing about the reaction from his former home audience.
"It's crazy, man," Swisher said. "I mean, I was traded from here. You know?"
Swisher, who smacked a solo homer in the first inning of Saturday's game, knows that the negative reaction likely stems from the fact that he suited up for the Yankees for four seasons before signing with Cleveland over the offseason. It does not matter that he was traded to New York, once a player dons pinstripes, he is automatically an enemy in plenty of cities.
Swisher does, however, look back fondly on his time with the A's.
"This was a great place for me," said Swisher, who was selected out of Ohio State University by Oakland in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. "It was a great place to come up. We had such good teams and we were just a bunch of young dudes having a blast. For me, this was a perfect place to come up. It fit my personality and they welcomed me with open arms."
In parts of four seasons with the A's, Swisher hit .251 with 80 home runs, 96 doubles, 255 RBIs, 260 walks and 267 runs in 458 games. Oakland signed Swisher to a five-year extension in May 2007, but then traded him to the White Sox in January 2008 in exchange for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos.
Chicago dealt Swisher to the Yankees prior to the 2009 season.
"I've been able to kind of play in every kind of organization," Swisher said. "Oakland isn't necessarily a small-market team any more, just because of how good they are. But I went from Oakland, which was a very low-profile team, and then I went to Chicago, which was a step up. Then I played in New York, which is the ultimate. I've gotten a taste of every level."
Did it bother Swisher to hear boos from A's fans?
"It is what it is, man," he said. "You never know why people do things. Either way, I've got a great outlook on this place. But, it is crazy sometimes."
Quote to note
"You talk to players about, when they go through a tough time, about just playing the game. That's probably the easiest and best way to not get frustrated. He does that about as good as anybody I've ever seen. He goes out and plays the game and I can't tell in the dugout if he's 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. He handles it pretty well."
--Francona, on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who entered Saturday mired in an 0-for-20 slump
• Indians general manager Chris Antonetti is scheduled to meet up with the team on Saturday night in California. Antonetti will finish the road trip with Cleveland and could use the time to go over possible September call-ups or roster moves with manager Terry Francona.
Asked if he felt Antonetti needed to make a deal prior to the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline, Francona reiterated that he likes the team currently in place.
"I have no problem with our team where we are," Francona said. "We know what we need to do to win. We just have to go do it. I have no problem with that. It's actually kind of fun. We have to play the game correctly. We have to run the bases correctly. When we do, we win. When we don't, we lose. But, no, I'm OK with where we're at. I'm enjoying seeing where we can get with this team."
• Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who is on the disabled list with a sprained right middle finger, played catch up to 120 feet on Saturday with protective tape on his finger. Kluber will rest on Sunday before restarting a throwing program without tape on his throwing hand. There is still no established return date for the pitcher.
• Indians utility man Ryan Raburn has not been in the starting lineup for the Tribe since Tuesday due to calf soreness, according to Francona. The manager indicated that Raburn, who has hit .271 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs through 70 games this season, would likely return to the order for Sunday's game in Oakland.
• In Friday's 3-2 loss to the A's, the Indians piled up nine walks and eight hits. It marked the first time since April 11, 1969 (in a 2-1 loss to Boston) that Cleveland had at least that many walks and hits, but scored no more than two runs. The previous American League team to accomplish that dubious feat was Detroit on July 6, 2008.