Jeremy Sowers didn't really belong on a rotation with C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee, and Jake Westbrook, who took the Cleveland Indians to the playoffs in 2007.
In fact, he was used mostly as a "replacement" pitcher, in the two years prior to the current one, meaning that he was called up when someone was injured and a rotation spot needed to be filled.
He was one of five who competed for the final starting slot in spring training in 2009, and lost. The winner, Scott Lewis, was injured early in the season, and his replacement was Aaron Laffey.
But now, Sabathia and Lee have been traded, and Carmona has gone "south" (figuratively). Westbrook has been out for the 2009 season with Tommy John surgery.
So Sowers was called up in May, when reliever Vinnie Chuik was designated for assignment.
Sowers got off to a typically bad start in the month, with an ERA well above 7.00. But his monthly ERA dropped below 5.00, in June and stayed there subsequently, finally pulling his full year ERA below that mark as well.
That's not great, but that is the best showing of a career that has seen annual ERA postings above 5.00 and 6.00
After the mid-season trades of Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano, the last-place Indians are operating largely with inexperienced starters. Besides Sowers, these include David Huff and Anthony Reyes, whom Sowers had outlasted in spring training.
While most other Indians are playing well below their potential, Sowers is having a "career year," at least relative to himself. His ERA of just below 5.00 is now second as a starter only to the far less durable Laffey.
Sowers is now the Indians' third most experienced starter, although to call him "middle of the rotation" caliber is probably being kind. He has a repertoire of pitches limited mainly to a fastball and changeup, and depends largely on control, which he doesn't always have.
Even so, as a top 2006 draft choice in the process of "rebuilding," he is a metaphor for a rebuilding team crippled by trades of better, but unaffordable, pitchers. His success or failure in the coming years may well be representative of the team's overall success or failure.
The Cleveland Indians have gotten worse over the past two years. Sowers has gotten better. There's finally a match between the two.