Borowski's approach not changing
Tribe's last closer standing is effective by deception
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Had he been born with the ability to hurl a baseball 100 mph, Joe Borowski might have done wonders for the general health of his teams' fans.As it stands, though, Borowski knows how pitchers of his ilk -- namely, those who aren't afraid of having guests on the basepaths -- can be perceived. "You hear," he said, "about [closers with the reputation of], 'Every time he comes in, guys at home are having heart attacks or smoking a pack of cigarettes.'" Well, smoke 'em if you got 'em, Tribe fans. Borowski is your closer. Rest assured, however, that the man who will be occupying the mound in the ninth for the Indians is quite comfortable with the drama that often accompanies his outings. "Would I like to go out and go 1-2-3 every single time? Of course," he said. "Who wouldn't? But in the end, all that matters is whether your team wins and whether you converted the save." The way the Indians drew it up, Borowski and Keith Foulke were to compete for the right to go after such conversions this year. But before the first air horn of camp could blare on the back fields of the Chain of Lakes complex, Foulke withdrew his name from the running with his sudden and surprising retirement from the game. So the 35-year-old Borowski is the winner by default. Does the development change his mind-set? Not really. Would he have benefited from the competition? Perhaps. Do the Indians trust in his abilities? Absolutely. "That's one of the pleasures of having a veteran bullpen guy," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's a guy that's done everything there is to do." Unfortunately, Borowski has also landed on the disabled list more times than he'd like. He missed most of 2004 with a partially torn rotator cuff and two months of '05 with a fractured right forearm. A report on Borowski's shoulder caused enough concern for the Phillies to back out of a two-year offer to him in December. But both the Phils and the Tribe were willing to take the risk of signing him to a one-year deal with an option for '08, and the Indians won out with their offer of $4 million. "I'm happy with how it worked out," Borowski said. "Everybody here seems to be great, and they're all focused on going out this year and winning, and that's the most important thing." Just as important, though, will be how the Indians monitor Borowski's outings. He'll be limited to one inning, and it's questionable whether he'd be able to work three consecutive days.
But the Indians do know what they're getting from Borowski in terms of his on-the-mound mind-set."He knows what he's trying to accomplish out there," Wedge said. "He's a fighter. He's one of those rare personalities that wants the ball."
When he has gotten the ball in a 10-year career that has included time with the Orioles, Braves, Yankees, Cubs, Devil Rays and Marlins, Borowski has compiled a 17-26 record with 80 saves and a 3.87 ERA in 336 appearances.He's coming off arguably his best year, having saved a career-high 36 games for Florida. Of course, many of those saves came in the pitcher-friendly confines of Dolphin Stadium -- a park that suited Borowski's fly-ball tendencies quite well. But then again, this is the same Borowski who saved 33 games in 2003 for a Cubs team that went on to the National League Championship Series. And upon last check, their ballpark is far from cavernous. "If I could pitch in Wrigley Field, I can pitch anywhere," Borowski said with a laugh. "The mistake a lot of people make is they try to alter what they do, depending on what park they're pitching in, and they get in trouble. If you keep the ball down and get ahead of hitters, you're going to be successful, no matter what park you pitch in. If you leave the ball up, you're going to get hurt." The Indians hope Borowski doesn't get hurt, in both senses of the word. With Foulke out of the picture, Borowski's performance and durability carry added importance for a bullpen that lost 27 games and converted just 51 percent of its save opportunities in 2006. Because Borowski doesn't have that blazing heat (he maxes out in the low 90s but has a deceptive slider), he acknowledged he can create some uncomfortable situations for those scoring at home. In 2006, for example, he gave up 63 hits and 33 walks in 69 2/3 innings. But in his opinion, the end result is all that matters. "I'll have my moments," he said, "where I'll go out there and it's like, 'No one can hit him.' And I'll have others where it's like, 'How does he get anybody out?' I don't possess that 98 mph [heat]. I wasn't blessed with that kind of velocity, so I go out and pitch."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.