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SAS CITY -- Derek Lowe shook a few hands and headed out the clubhouse doors quietly on Wednesday night, likely for the last time as a member of the Indians.
Following a 5-2 loss to the Royals, Cleveland designated Lowe for assignment in light of his persistent and prolonged struggles on the mound. The Indians took a chance on Lowe over the offseason, acquiring him in a trade with the Braves, but the veteran sinkerballer was unable to live up to his past form.
Lowe was not available for comment, but the pitcher was clearly dejected in the wake of his most recent outing.
"It's frustrating," Lowe said on Tuesday night. "You have a standard of what I've pitched like and this, this is not what you're used to doing. But, it's reality."
By designating Lowe for assignment, the Indians have cleared room on the roster for the promotion of Triple-A Columbus right-hander Corey Kluber, who is scheduled to start against Kansas City on Thursday. Cleveland has 10 days to trade or release Lowe, or the club can send him outright to a Minor League affiliate if he clears waivers.
"He's going to get a legit opportunity," Acta said of Kluber, who has gone 11-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 21 starts for Columbus. So right now, Josh is in the bullpen and we're not thinking about bringing him back to the rotation unless we have to, for the time being."
Kluber technically assumes the rotation spot of right-hander Josh Tomlin, whose own struggles have landed him in the Tribe's bullpen. Cleveland will likely carry eight relievers until Sunday, when the ballclub will need to name a replacement starter for Lowe.
Over the offseason, the Indians traded Minor League reliever Chris Jones to Atlanta in order to acquire Lowe, and the Braves agreed to chip in $10 million of the starter's $15 million salary for this season. Lowe had the worst season of his career in 2011, going 9-17 with a 5.50 ERA for Atlanta.
In 21 turns for the Indians this season, the 39-year-old Lowe went 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA, which is a drastic drop-off from his stellar start. Lowe stormed out of the gates with a 6-1 record and an American League-leading 2.05 ERA through eight outings before the bottom fell out on his season.
Over his last 13 starts, Lowe went 2-9 with an 8.28 ERA, allowing 65 runs (61 earned) on 97 hits with 28 strikeouts and 28 walks over 66 1/3 innings. Dating back to last September, when Lowe's struggles played a role in Atlanta's collapse from postseason contention, Lowe has gone 8-15 with a 6.06 ERA over 26 starts.
On Tuesday, Lowe imploded, surrendering seven runs on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings in an 8-3 loss to the Royals.
"It's just mistake after mistake," Lowe said after that showing. "We work hard on the side to try to come up with [answers]. When you've lost velocity throughout your career, you've got to be able to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. It seems like that's where every pitch goes. At this level, you can't get away with that many mistakes."
Over a 16-year career, Lowe has gone 174-156 with a 4.01 ERA in 655 games spent between tours with the Mariners, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Indians. He developed a two-seam sinker that helped him evolve into one of the game's best groundball pitchers, but that pitch abandoned him as this season wore on.
At his height as a starter, Lowe went 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA for the 2002 Red Sox, finishing third in balloting for the American League Cy Young Award. He also won each clinching game in helping the 2004 Red Sox capture a World Series -- Boston's first title since 1918. Lowe also excelled as a closer, saving 85 games over his career.
Lowe has made two All-Star teams and from 2002-10, he was one of the game's most reliable starters, going 137-97 with a 3.90 ERA over that span.
The veteran pitcher had his moments this season, too.
On May 15, Lowe fashioned a shutout in a 5-0 road victory over the Twins, creating 22 outs via grounders and ending with no strikeouts in the gem. It marked the first time since April 28, 2002 that an Indians pitcher (Scott Erickson) completed a shutout with no strikeouts.
Things unraveled swiftly for Lowe, though.
"If you want to talk about a tale of two months," Lowe said. "From the first two to where we are right now, it couldn't be any further. It's frustrating. You have a standard of what I've pitched like and this, this is not what you're used to doing. But, it's reality.
"You can't sugarcoat it, and you can't sit here and say you've been pitching good and got a few bad breaks, because that'd just be a lie. That's where we are."