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MLB: Cedar City native Mitch Talbot off to strong start with Cleveland

May 17, 2010

By David Driver
For the Deseret News
Used with permission

BALTIMORE Utah native Mitch Talbot walked off the mound here Saturday night after allowing just two runs, both on solo homers by Ty Wigginton of the Orioles.

But the Canyon View High graduate was trailing, 2-0, after eight innings in his seventh start of the season for his new team, the Cleveland Indians.

Any chance he would return for the ninth inning if the Indians rallied to tie the game or take the lead? "No, they said I was done," said Talbot, referring to Cleveland manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher.

But the Indians' offense, which had been dormant, awoke. Cleveland scored eight runs in the top of the ninth, three on a go-ahead homer by Austin Kearns with one out, as the Tribe came back for an 8-2 win over the struggling Orioles.

"Keep things going, guys," Talbot, who was three outs away from taking the loss, told himself during the ninth-inning rally. "I was obviously very excited. I'll take it."

That offensive outburst helped Talbot to his fifth win of the season against two losses. Not bad for a pitcher who had made just three Major League appearances, in 2008, prior to this season. Going into Saturday's action Talbot, a Cedar City native, was the only rookie pitcher in the major leagues with four victories.

What's it like to not pitch in the majors last year and now lead big league rookies in wins? Talbot paused for a few seconds and then laughed.

"How do I say it? It is crazy to me that it is me (this is happening to)," he said. "I don't know if it has sunk in yet that I am leading rookies in wins or whatever. But it is great."

And now he is 5-2 in seven starts after making just 10 starts, all in the Triple-A International League, last season. And a right elbow strain also limited Talbot, 26, a year ago while in the Tampa Bay farm system with Durham.

"Another tremendous effort by Talbot," said Acta, sitting in his office after Saturday's win in Baltimore. "He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to stay close until the end. This guy pitches, man. He is not a strikeout guy. He makes pitches and has a good repertoire. He is tough on lefties with that cutter."

Talbot, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, allowed five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in eight innings against the Orioles. He threw 103 pitches, with 66 for strikes. Talbot's first Major League start, and second game, came in Baltimore in 2008 when he played for Tampa Bay.

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, now a television broadcaster who covers the Orioles for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), said of Talbot during the Saturday telecast: "He is very impressive. We are seeing his best game. You don't see that many young pitchers pitch eight innings and keep the pitch count down."

He was acquired by the Indians in a trade that sent catcher Kelly Shoppach to Tampa Bay following the 2009 season. "We were very excited about it," Talbot said of the trade. "I knew I would get a chance here. I felt comfortable before my last start in spring training. I felt like I had done a pretty good job."

Ross Atkins, director of player development for the Indians, has been impressed with Talbot.

"He has been everything we had hoped for and a little bit more," Atkins said. "His fast ball has great life," Atkins said in a telephone interview. "He has the ability to get outs in the zone. He is using three pitches effectively. He has an efficient delivery that, in my opinion, has some upside."

Talbot, who began his pro career in the Houston farm system, said when Cleveland played the Angels earlier this season in California, a van full of family and friends came from Utah and Arizona, where his wife is from, to see him. He was the winning pitcher April 27 as the Tribe beat the host Angels, 9-2.

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On April 16 he threw the first complete game of his big league career in a win at home against the White Sox. According to Elias, it was the first time an Indians pitcher got his first big league win in a complete-game effort since Tom Kramer in 1993. Talbot was runner-up for American League rookie of the month in April to Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

"Mostly it is the little things. It is the little things that you have to rely on," Talbot said of his success this season. "If you don't have a good balance point it is going to be tough to stay consistent."

Is it the new team or better health that has made the difference this year?