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Francona turns to rookie Lee in key situation

CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe that rookie reliever and No. 14 prospect C.C. Lee will soon become a key piece in their bullpen. While balancing making decisions aimed at winning games, Cleveland manager Terry Francona is also keeping Lee's development in mind.

In the ninth inning of the Tribe's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday, Francona found an opportune chance to trust Lee with an important situation. Trailing by one run, Lee took over with a runner on first base, two outs and Toronto slugger Jose Bautista at the plate.

"I thought, 'This is a good opportunity,'" Francona said. "Because, if he gets them out, he's going to feel good about himself. I thought he handled himself great."

Francona said he could have turned to right-hander Bryan Shaw, but the manager also likes to avoid turning to his regular arms too often when Cleveland is behind. Bautista and the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, had no experience against the sidearmer Lee, who has appeared in just 12 Major League games.

Lee quickly worked to an 0-2 count on Bautista, who then fought back. After getting to a full count, the Blue Jays' outfielder fouled off three straight pitches from the 27-year-old right-hander. Lee won the battle, inducing an inning-ending groundout to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

"C.C. is going to be a big part of our future. The more he's a part of our present is good," Francona said. "I actually thought Bautista had a really good at-bat. I thought C.C. made a lot of good pitches, but when you get a hitter like that who is that dangerous and sees that many pitches, they become more dangerous."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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