Indians' Borowski heads to DL after blowing save against Red Sox

CLEVELAND -- On his walk from the bullpen to the mound,
Joe Borowski already knew he was in serious trouble.

With the Cleveland Indians clinging to a one-run lead, the maligned closer was about to face the Boston Red Sox without his best stuff.

"It was like I went out there with an unloaded gun," he said.

Borowski, who has dodged so many ninth-inning jams since joining the Indians, couldn't escape a trip to the disabled list. He was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday, a day after blowing a save and giving up a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Boston's Manny Ramirez.

Borowski, who led the AL with 45 saves last season, has a strained triceps -- an injury he first felt in spring training and one the Indians have kept a secret for weeks. He had been puzzled by a significant loss in his velocity before being examined by doctors, who recommended he stop pitching for a while.

The pitch he threw to Ramirez registered only 83 mph on the radar gun.

Indians manager Eric Wedge said Borowski could be down as long as one month. Borowski isn't going to throw for several days, hoping the rest will allow his arm to recover.

"This is pretty much exactly like you hear pitchers in spring training say they're going through a dead-arm period," Borowski said. "It's that kind of feeling. You still have all your stuff. You can still do everything. You just can't kick it in when you have to."

With Borowski out, Rafael Betancourt will handle closing duties. The only other member of Cleveland's pitching staff with closing experience is right-hander Jorge Julio, who has 99 career saves.

One of baseball's top setup men, Betancourt went 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 68 games, and recorded three saves in six tries. His track record as a closer isn't very good, though. He has converted just 12 of 29 career save chances.

Betancourt said he'll approach his new role the same way.

"It's no different," said the right-hander, who struck out
David Ortiz and Ramirez with two on in the seventh on Monday. "I just have to get the last three outs of the game."

That usually wasn't easy for the 36-year-old Borowski. He led the league in saves last season despite a 5.07 ERA. But it was rare if he retired the side in order. More often than not, Borowski pitched himself into trouble, then had to find a way out of his self-created mess.

He had been hoping he could pitch through the tightness in his triceps, which he first felt during a spring appearance against Washington. Borowski has had shoulder problems in the past, but said his current injury isn't nearly as serious.

If he could, he'd keep pitching.

"It's tough to admit it, but rest is probably the best thing to do, not do anything for several days and just relax," he said. "More times than not it does work itself out. It's just being stubborn."

Borowski signed as a free agent with Cleveland in 2006 after making 36 saves the previous year for the Florida Marlins. The Indians picked up his $4 million option shortly after the season, one in which he walked a tightrope during many of his saves.

Wedge expects Borowski to move back into the closer's role once he's healthy.

As he warmed up on Monday night, Borowski knew his velocity wasn't good. But he wanted to take on the Red Sox anyway.

"It's like you're still a competitor and you're fighting through it," he said. "Even if I had gone 1-2-3, I think I would have talked to the trainer."

Wedge, too, wanted to let Borowski see if he could pull off another daring escape.

"He's gotten out of worse than that," Wedge said.

Right-hander Tom Mastny, who spent last season with Cleveland but was edged out of a bullpen slot in spring training, was called up from Triple-A Buffalo to assume Borowski's roster spot.