Notes: Peralta producing at three-spot
Shortstop shines again at the top of the batting order
DETROIT -- Not only is Jhonny Peralta back to his form of 2005. He's back to his lineup spot of '05, as well.For the second time in as many starts, Peralta was in the three spot of manager Eric Wedge's lineup for Tuesday's series opener against the Tigers. That's the spot Peralta claimed during a breakout '05 season, when he hit .288 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 63 starts. Last season, Peralta batted himself right out of that position in the lineup. But his .284 average, 14 homers and 47 RBIs this year have allowed him to reclaim it. "I feel pretty good," Peralta said. "I worked hard for this. I think it's very good." Peralta's placing isn't permanent. Wedge said it's based on matchups and how the rest of the lineup is faring. Given that Peralta came into Tuesday's game with a .526 (10-for-19) career average against Tigers starter Nate Robertson, Wedge felt it appropriate to keep him in the upper-third of the order. Still, that Peralta is even considered for such a move is a testament to his maturation at the plate this season. "He recognized that he needed to make adjustments," Wedge said. "That happens to a lot of guys in their second year in the big leagues. He needed to make adjustments, and he's done that." Peralta's biggest adjustment has come in his ability to read and make contact on the big-league breaking ball and changeup. Such pitches gave him fits in '05, in part because he was having trouble picking up on the spin of the ball. Offseason laser eye surgery helped clear up that problem. "I see the ball better," Peralta said. "I'm making better contact with the ball." Indeed, Peralta has already surpassed his 2005 home run total, and he's inching toward his RBI total of 68. "I've got a lot of RBIs," he said. "That's something that I didn't do too much last year." Add Peralta's improved plate performance to his dramatic growth in range from side to side at shortstop, and you have the player the Indians hoped they'd get when they signed him to a contract extension before the '06 season. You also have another option Wedge feels comfortable with for the upper-third of his ever-changing lineup. "He's done a great job this year," Wedge said. "Every area of his game has improved." Sticking around: Grady Sizemore, true to form, didn't seem too enthused when it was mentioned to him that he's the latest sports figure to get the "Fathead" treatment. Fathead is a company that makes life-size wall graphics of sports and entertainment stars. Sizemore is the first Indians player to be deemed "Fathead-worthy." "I don't really care," Sizemore said with a shrug. "I've never even seen a Fathead." A couple of his teammates, seated nearby, were a little more pumped-up about the matter. Jason Michaels told Sizemore that when he's 65, he can show his grandkids his Fathead sticker. And Josh Barfield said he wants one of the Sizemore stickers to hang in his apartment. "If I was on one, I'd put it right above my bed," Barfield joked. "I'd wake up every morning and be like, 'I'm sweet! I'm on a Fathead!'" In the meantime, Barfield and anyone else interested can order Sizemore's Fathead at www.fathead.com. Here's the question ... Sizemore's grand slam in Monday night's game was the 500th hit of his career. He reached it at 24 years, 334 days old. According to Elias Sports Bureau, who was the last Indians player to reach his 500th hit at the age of 24? Coming along: Reliever Aaron Fultz's recovery from a right rib strain is going as smooth as planned. Fultz, who made the road trip with the club, played catch out to 120 feet Tuesday. On Thursday, he is expected to throw his first bullpen session since being placed on the 15-day disabled list. "Every day, I'm progressing," he said. "I'm about 80-85 percent. I still feel it a little bit, but not enough to hinder me." The Indians still expect to activate the left-handed Fultz after the All-Star break. Tribe tidbits: Wedge is making a habit out of downplaying any extra significance to this series, though he certainly understands the attention being given to the matchup with the Tigers. "Anytime you play a team you're going neck and neck with, there's going to be more emphasis on it," he said. ... The Indians entered Tuesday with a 22-14 (.611) mark against teams with a .500 or better record. ... Tuesday marked the 60th anniversary of Larry Doby signing with the Indians in 1947. Doby was the American League's first black player. MLB.com and Indians.com will feature a package of Doby-related stories on Thursday, the 60th anniversary of his first appearance with the Tribe. Down on the farm: Shortstop Hector Luna hit two homers in Triple-A Buffalos' 7-4 win over Rochester on Monday. Right-hander Adam Miller gave up three runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings of relief. ... Buffalo first baseman Ryan Mulhern, infielder Luis Rivas and manager Torey Lovullo have all been named to the International League All-Star team. The game will be played against the Pacific League on July 11 in Albuquerque, N.M. ... First baseman Michael Aubrey went 4-for-5 in Double-A Akron's 7-5 win over Erie. Left-hander Reid Santos gave up two runs on four hits over six innings to get the victory. ... Santos, right-hander Randy Newsom, catcher Wyatt Toregas, infielders Jordan Brown and Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielder Brian Barton will all represent Akron and the Southern Division in the Eastern League All-Star Game, which will be held July 11 in Norwich, Conn. And the answer is ... Carlos Baerga was 24 years, 198 days old when he reached his 500th hit on May 21, 1993, against Detroit. On deck: On Independence Day, the Indians will look to further liberate themselves from the Tigers in the AL Central standings with Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-3, 6.10 ERA) will oppose left-hander Kenny Rogers (2-0, 0.75).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.