BASEBALL; Ledezma comes back to bite Sox

BASEBALL; Ledezma comes back to bite Sox

Jim Parker

DETROIT – Left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma is getting a chance with the Detroit Tigers that would still be years away with the Red Sox.

Having never pitched above Class A before this season, Ledezma was plucked from the Boston system by the Tigers in December’s Rule5 draft.

He returned to haunt the organization yesterday by throwing seven shutout innings in his second major league start, leading the Tigers to a 3-0 win over the Red Sox at Comerica Park.

“Definitely, I wanted to pitch well against that team,” said Ledezma, who uses Tigers coach Juan Samuel as an interpreter. “The important thing is I pitched well.”

Signed as a free agent by the Sox in 1998, Ledezma’s rise through the organization was slow.

The native of Venezuela missed all of the 2001 season with a left elbow stress fracture. He missed time last season with a back strain and was twice on the disabled list in 2000 with shoulder and elbow problems.

“I was very frustrated the last two years because I could not do what I wanted,” Ledezma said. “I’m healthy now.”

With a fastball touching 94 mph, Ledezma was solid with a 92- pitch performance that featured 64 strikes. He allowed six hits in seven innings and didn’t walk a batter while striking out two.

“Ledezma threw a great game,” Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said. “The guy has a great arm. He changed speeds all day against us.”

Ledezma has been a pet project for Detroit pitching coach Bob Cluck.

“We made two changes to him,” Cluck said. “We changed his curve so it has a little less bend, and about two weeks ago we added a two- seam fastball from the four-seam fastball he was throwing.”

The 22-year-old Ledezma has fallen in love with the two-seam pitch.

“My four-seam was very straight,” he said. “The two-seam gives me another pitch in my arsenal.”

Ledezma would never have gotten a chance to pitch this quickly with the Red Sox. With the Tigers, who own baseball’s worst record, the club can afford to experiment.

“He seems very composed out there and that’s not normal for a Rule5 guy,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “I like what I see, but we need to be cautious.”

Trammell noted that Ledezma hung a few offspeed pitches and that 10 of his 21 outs were fly balls. One was a shot by Damian Jackson in the bottom of the fifth inning that Detroit’s Dmitri Young reached over the fence to grab.

“That’s all right here, but you wouldn’t want to make a living doing that,” Trammell said of spacious Comerica Park. “We’ll monitor things over the next couple months and if he keeps us in games, then he’ll stay in the rotation.”

Caption: ON FIRE: Tigers pitcher Wilfredo Ledezma unwinds during the fifth inning yesterday in Detroit’s 3-0 victory over the Red Sox. AP photo

Copyright 2003

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