Cleveland Feels Like Home For Elarton

Scott Elarton ... happy to be in Cleveland.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Scott Elarton moved into two different homes last year and both gave him peace of mind.<br><br> The right-hander resurrected his career in Cleveland and then after the season purchased a 16,000-acre farm in his native Colorado.<br><br> Elarton loves living in the Rockies. He just never wants to pitch there again.<br>

"I'm really happy with the Indians," he said after a recent brisk workout at the team's training camp. "Coming to Cleveland has worked out well. I've been treated great and this team has a real chance of winning. I want to be part of that."

Until the second half of the 2004 season in Cleveland, winning had become mostly a memory to Elarton, who battled injuries and the long ball for four ardous seasons. During that time, he compiled a 15-32 record while bouncing back and forth from the majors to the minors as he tried to regain the form from his first three seasons in the big time when he was 28-13 for Houston, including 17-7 in 2000.

He tried to pitch with tendinitis in his right biceps the next year, then was traded to Colorado, but needed shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2002 season.

"Colorado is probably the hardest place to come back from surgery," he said. "I battled through that and health-wise, I was fine. I should have been able to replicate what I had done before. It just was not happening.

"Being a flyball pitcher there isn't any fun. I just got to the point where I had exhausted all possibilities. It was time for a new spot."

Career-wise, that was Cleveland, though he made another lifestyle change by moving to the wide-open spaces outside of Denver, too. He bought a flat stretch of grassland and will let his father-in-law grow wheat and raise 200 cattle. there. The tract measures about eight miles by five miles and the nearest city, Colorado Springs, is 1½ hours away.

"Even Colorado Springs is way too big for me,'' he said. "There's a little town about six miles away, but it doesn't even have a gas station. To get gas, you have to go 35 miles. This land is in the middle of nowhere. It's perfect.''

Even though he had a decent half-season in Cleveland, Elarton obviously still had a need to get away from it all to settle his nerves after three years of watching his fastballs fly far in the thin air of Colorado.

The 29-year-old has a career ERA of 7.89 at Colorado's Coors Field and went 4-12 over parts of three seasons with the Rockies, including 0-6 with a 9.80 ERA in eight starts in 2004 before being released May 24.

The Indians signed him the next day and sent him to Class AAA Buffalo. In his third start with the Bisons, Elarton pitched a four-hit shutout. "The difference was night and day," he said. "I was pretty much making the same pitches, but instead of going out of the park they were being caught."

Called up to Cleveland, he lost twice more with the Indians to drop his overall record to 0-8 before finally defeating Detroit last July 28 -- for his first win in 17 starts. "I almost forgot what it was like to win," he said. "That wasn't my best game, but it is one I'll remember long time. It meant a lot."

His best came a month later as he pitched a two-hitter for his first complete-game shutout in the majors on Aug. 29 against the White Sox.

"With each outing, we saw a little more," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "It led us to believe he was on his way back. Through it all, Scott always gave us a chance to win. That's all you can ask of a pitcher."

He finished with a 3-5 record for the Indians and began this spring 2-0 before being roughed up Saturday in an exhibition start against the New York Yankees.

Wedge said he wasn't too concerned with Elarton giving up three homers and five earned runs over five innings.. "Scott had to work his way into the game a little bit. Overall, it was a good work day for him. He's looked good the entire camp."

Elarton said the key to his success is establishing his fastball early to set up his offspeed stuff. Since he's not overpowering, control of both is important.

"A few fastballs were up," he said. "Once I just relaxed and I stayed back a little bit, everything was fine.

"The No. 1 thing for me in spring training is to build arm strength and endurance. Establishing command is probably the most important thing in the games. Fastball command, for me, is huge."

Elarton is listed at No. 5 in the rotation and wouldn't mind being asked to do more.

"To me, it doesn't matter if I am the fifth starter or the first, as long as I am in the rotation," he said. "Every start is important, no matter where you pitch. Once you get two weeks into the season, rotations get all jumbled up anyway."

Pitching coach Carl Willis tries to keep the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Elarton's delivery from getting too quirky.

"He's got great leverage on his pitches when he comes over the top," Willis said. "That downward angle changes the hitter's eye level. The thing is, Scott has to make sure he keeps the ball down."

When Elarton elevates his pitches in the strike zone, they will get hit out of any ballpark. He allowed 38 homers last year and 25 of them came in 21 starts with the Indians.

"Scott has the deception to pitch up in the zone," Wedge said. "But he can't live up there."

It really is all about location for Elarton, who says he feels much more at home pitching at Jacobs Field, where he is 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA in 12 career starts.

"It just feels comfortable," he said. "That is huge. If you don't feel comfortable somewhere, it is tough to have success."

SCOTT ELARTON'S MAJOR-LEAGUE CAREER:

Yr

Team

Age

W

L

ERA

G

GS

IP

H

BB

SO

98

Houston

22

2

1

3.32

28

2

57

40

20

56

99

Houston

23

9

5

3.48

42

15

124

111

43

121

00

Houston

24

17

7

4.81

30

30

192.2

198

84

131

01

Houston

25

4

8

7.14

20

20

109.2

126

49

76

01

Colorado

25

0

2

6.65

4

4

23

20

10

11

02

Injured - DNP

26

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

03

Colorado

27

4

4

6.27

11

10

51.2

73

20

20

04

Colorado

28

0

6

9.80

8

8

41.1

57

20

23

04

Cleveland

28

3

5

4.53

21

21

117.1

107

42

80

MLB Totals

39

38

5.22

164

110

716

732

288

518

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