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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Updated: April 1, 1:29 PM ET
Robertson joins upstart staff in Cleveland

Associated Press

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Jeriome Robertson's chances of pitching in the majors this season improved dramatically Wednesday.

Jeriome Robertson

Bumped from Houston's star-studded rotation earlier this spring and sent to the minors this week, Robertson was traded by the Astros to the Cleveland Indians.

In exchange for Robertson, who led major league rookies with 15 wins last year, the Indians gave up two minor-leaguers, outfielder Luke Scott and the rights to outfielder Willy Taveras.

The deal was announced a few hours after the Astros beat the Indians 3-2 in Kissimmee, Fla.

Robertson went 15-9 with a 5.10 ERA as a rookie in 2003, but the left-hander got bumped from the rotation this season when Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte signed with Houston.

He went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five spring starts but was optioned on Monday to Triple-A New Orleans, where he might have stayed all season with the quality of the other pitchers on Houston's staff.

With the Indians, he'll move up the ladder much faster.

Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro told Robertson that he won't start immediately and that he'll begin the season either in Cleveland's bullpen or at Triple-A Buffalo.

"He will start for us at some point this year," said Shapiro, who has been concerned about the Indians' depth of starters.

Robertson gives Cleveland more protection in case any of its young starters struggles, and even if he is sent to the minors, he shouldn't be there very long.

"He doesn't have the road blocks in front of him like Clemens, [Roy] Oswalt, [Tim] Redding and [Wade] Miller," Shapiro said. "I told him, 'I think you have a few orange cones in front of you here.' "

Shapiro said he'll meet with manager Eric Wedge on Thursday to determine what to do with Robertson.

Picked by the Astros in the 24th round of the 1995 draft, Robertson didn't always pitch well last season, but the Astros averaged 5.45 runs in Robertson's 31 starts.

Robertson gives Cleveland another young, talented lefty for the future. C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jason Stanford -- all left-handers -- are already in Cleveland's starting rotation, and the Indians also have promising youngsters Brian Tallet and Billy Traber, though both are recovering from elbow surgery.

After winning a spot in training camp last season, Robertson, who turned 27 Tuesday, led the Astros in wins. His 31 starts tied for the most among major league rookies.

He set a rookie franchise record by winning nine straight games May 22-July 22.

"He's got exceptional intangibles -- determination, toughness and intelligence -- who finds a way to get it done," said Shapiro, who compared Robertson to Jason Stanford, Cleveland's No. 5 starter.

Scott, 25, batted .273 in 50 games for Double-A Akron and .278 in 67 games at Class-A Kinston. He led the Indians' organization with 81 RBI.

Taveras, 22, was already in Astros' camp after being selected in the winter meeting draft. He batted .282 and stole 57 bases for Kinston in 2003.