Kinston pitcher Ryan Prahm never saved a game before this season, but it would be tough to tell from his success in the Indians' bullpen.

The right-hander is second in the Class A Carolina League in saves with 13, despite being thrust into the closer role at the start of this season.

"At first I tried to become more intense, to become a diehard closer, and throw the ball really hard," said Prahm, whose Indians will play Potomac in the second game of a three-game series tonight. "That's when I struggled, so I just learned to relax."

Prahm adapted quickly, earning a trip to Tuesday's California-Carolina League All-Star Game. He finished that game for the Carolina League team -- facing just three batters and striking out two in the final inning -- but he didn't earn the save because the California all-stars won, 5-2.

Prahm, 25, who signed with Cleveland in 2000 as an undrafted free agent, is excelling despite undergoing two arm surgeries in his young career. He played very little in 2002, when he had elbow surgery; during his college career at the University of Iowa he had shoulder surgery.

After rehabilitating his elbow last year, Prahm has found his niche -- in addition to the saves he has collected, he is 1-0 with a 1.52 ERA. He has struck out 26 batters in less than 23 2/3 innings.

Before the 2003 season, Prahm started exclusively -- he almost never relieved in his amateur career, and he started all 16 of his games in his first two seasons as a pro.

"People in the organization told me I was projected as a reliever, and after the injury it kind of forced the issue," Prahm said. "It took a while to get used to closing. Now I know I just have to treat the ninth inning like the first, and just establish my game."