IL notes: Bullpen suits Indians' Black

Converted starter ranks among league leaders with 14 saves

By John Wagner / Special to | July 8, 2013 6:00 AM ET

Vic Black began his professional career as a starting pitcher. So when the Pirates front office suggested he switch to relief, he remembers his initial reaction.

"My reaction wasn't super-positive at the time," he said. "One of the reasons they did it was because of injuries -- and I didn't want to be hurt.

"But now I feel it has been a perfect switch, health-wise, mentality-wise. I enjoy the possibility of being able to throw every day instead of sitting around for four days, thinking about what I did wrong or what I did right."

And Black has proven to be a capable closer for Indianapolis, entering this week among the International League leaders with 14 saves. He has a 2.10 ERA, a .160 opponents' batting average and 41 strikeouts over 30 innings.

"He's established himself as someone who is going to be helping us in Pittsburgh," Indians manager Dean Treanor said. "He has really taken over the closer's role for us, pitching at the back end of the game.

"I think his command has gotten better and his breaking ball, his secondary pitch, has been very, very good."

Black throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90s as well as a curve.

"I was supposed to work on a two-seam fastball in the Arizona Fall League, but I got sidetracked because I wanted to get outs," he admitted.

But Black said the switch from starter to reliever has meshed well with his personality.

"[The move] allowed me to take the mental cap off of pitching and do what I used to do in college: grab the ball and just throw," he said. "This fits who I am in terms of personality -- I'm aggressive, I don't like waiting.

"When I'm out there, I'm coming at you with what I've got -- and everything I've got -- and you just have to beat me. Relieving just fits who I am."

The only blot on Black's 2013 season was an oblique injury in late May that cost him roughly a month of action, not to mention a possible promotion to Pittsburgh.

"I saw a bunch of up-and-downs and I have to admit I found myself thinking, 'That could have been me' or 'I could have fit in there,'" he said. "But injuries are part of the game. I just need to get myself ready so I can help out the team in Pittsburgh if I'm needed at some point this year."

Black is ready to help the Pirates in any way, but he hopes it's as a reliever.

"I was asked two Spring Trainings ago if I'd like to start again," he said. "As respectfully as possible, I said I'd rather not see a first inning again if I don't have to."

In brief

Triple Crown candidate? Buffalo ranks fifth in the IL with 413 runs scored in 88 games. And the Bisons have candidates to win each of the league's Triple Crown categories. Mauro Gomez leads the league with 24 homers, while Luis Jimenez is third with 61 RBIs and Jim Negrych begins the week ranked fourth with a .325 batting average.

C.C. is OK: Columbus RHP C.C. Lee struggled a bit in his first appearance with the Clippers, giving up two hits and a run. In the three appearances that followed, he was nearly perfect: Lee has not allowed a hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings while registering seven of his 10 outs by strikeout. Lee, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, has given up six hits and seven walks while fanning 21 over 14 1/3 innings spread across three levels this season.

He said it: "Anytime you are with a new team, there is kind of a transition period. You are probably trying to do a little too much, trying to make an impact, a next level kind of thing. It just took some time to work out the kinks and settle in, I think." -- Gwinnett CF Todd Cunningham to the Gwinnett Daily Post. After hitting .253 in April and .265 in May, he posted a .324 average in June. For the season, he's batting .275 with 14 stolen bases and 46 runs scored in 85 games.

He said it, part II: "We feel like a run or two behind isn't enough and we can always come back. Once we taste it, we go get it." -- Rochester IF Eric Farris to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. The Red Wings are 20-11 in one-run games for a .645 winning percentage that leads the IL.

John Wagner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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