CLEVELAND -- Outfielder Brian Ruiz was merely a 41st-round selection by the Indians on the third and final day of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but he's already on the radar of manager Manny Acta.Acta and Ruiz actually know each other well. They met last year at a Hispanic Heritage Month event at which Acta was the keynote speaker, and Ruiz, a fellow native of the Dominican who attended high school locally at Lincoln-West, was an attendee. "I kept in touch with him and his coach," Acta said. "I just left them tickets a week ago in Toronto. I talked to him during batting practice, and he had a workout with the Blue Jays the very next morning." Ruiz asked Acta to show up at his workout, and the skipper obliged. "I gave him a bit of a pep talk the day before," Acta said. "I was telling him there isn't a guarantee that he's going to be a professional player, and he has to keep up his grades up." Ruiz is the rare player who used a wooden bat throughout his high school career, and he used it again when facing live pitching at the Jays workout. Tribe amateur scouting director Brad Grant said the 18-year-old Ruiz, a veteran of the Cleveland RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, is an athletic kid with the ability to play center field. The Indians will continue to scout him in area summer leagues. Acta has, in his own words, "zero involvement" in the scouting side of things, so Ruiz didn't come to the organization as a result of his recommendation. "I don't even think [the front office] knows I know him," Acta said. "I'm very happy we were able to draft him. He loves the game and has a lot of passion for it."
Phelps hoping to contribute to Tribe
CLEVELAND -- Cord Phelps' name was on the lineup card hanging outside the doors to the Indians' clubhouse on Wednesday morning. His new jersey was hanging in the first locker just inside the room.
Phelps was there as well, trying to wrap his head around what was occurring.
"I don't think you ever expect it," Phelps said. "It's a dream come true. I'm really excited to be here."
On Wednesday, Cleveland promoted the infield prospect from Triple-A Columbus and immediately handed him a start at second base and a spot in the lineup as the Tribe's seventh hitter. Manager Manny Acta said Phelps will get the bulk of the playing time at second against right-handers.
To clear room on the active roster, the Indians optioned utility man Shelley Duncan to Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland transferred right-hander Alex White (right middle finger) to the 60-day disabled list from the 15-day DL to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster for Phelps.
The hope is that the 24-year-old Phelps can breathe some life into what has of late been a stale Indians offense. Dating back to May 18, when designated hitter Travis Hafner was shelved with a right oblique injury, the Tribe has gone 8-12, with a .224 team average and just 3.3 runs per game.
At Triple-A Columbus, Phelps was off to a strong start at the plate.
"He was playing well in Triple-A," Acta said. "He earned his shot. We're going to give him an opportunity to play the majority of times against right-handed pitchers. We hope that he can give us some spark and take advantage of his opportunity."
Phelps, 24, went 0-for-4 in a 5-1 win over Rochester on Tuesday night, but learned after the game that he was headed to Cleveland. In 55 games for the Clippers, the switch-hitting Phelps posted a .299 average, with seven home runs, 15 doubles, 31 runs, 40 RBIs and an .879 OPS.
Given the presence of highly touted prospects Lonnie Chisenhall (third base) and Jason Kipnis (second base), Phelps moved around the field for Columbus. He mostly manned shortstop, appearing in 28 games at that spot. Phelps also spent 13 games at second, 13 as the DH and one at third base.
"It helps with versatility to be able to play multiple positions," said Phelps, who was selected by Cleveland in the third round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. "I think that was a good experience for me to have that challenge put in front of me."
Now, Phelps has a bigger challenge: help the American League Central-leading Indians stay atop the division.
"It's impressive what they've been able to do so far," Phelps said. "I'd catch a few games on TV, and they've been doing a heck of a job. Hopefully, I can contribute in a small way."
Cabrera takes professional approach
CLEVELAND -- Indians veteran Orlando Cabrera made a point of heading over to rookie Cord Phelps on Wednesday morning to shake the young infielder's hand. Cabrera wanted to congratulate Phelps and welcome him to the big leagues.
It was a nice gesture, especially considering Phelps will be assuming some of Cabrera's playing time at second base. Indians manager Manny Acta informed Cabrera that Phelps, at least for the time being, would garner most of the playing time at second against right-handed pitchers.
"He was very professional," Acta said of Cabrera. "He understands what's going on. Obviously, he was disappointed in a way, because that's human nature. Every one of us, that's what we want to do, and he's a competitor.
"He knows how important he is to our ballclub, and he's always been an everyday player. Nobody is saying he's not going to be an everyday player again. He's very professional. He took it as [well] as he could."
Cabrera, 36, was signed to a one-year contract during Spring Training and won the vacant starting role at second base. He has provided sound leadership in the clubhouse and performed well at the plate and in the field.
Dating back to May 4, however, Cabrera has hit just .192 (20-for-104) with a .453 OPS across 29 games. The second baseman's average dropped from .301 to .246 over that span. For the season, Cabrera has hit .228 with a .505 OPS against righties, compared to .290 with a .775 OPS against left-handers.
"It plays a role," said Acta, referring to Cabrera's production against right-handed pitching. "But the main thing is, our offense is struggling and we need to try to maximize every position that we have on the field."
Acta would not go as far as saying Phelps was a permanent replacement at second.
"This is not a done-deal type of thing," Acta said. "Orlando is still going to get playing time against left-handers and some right-handed pitchers, too. It's very early. This is not a slam dunk. This kid [Phelps] is going to get an opportunity to play. Now we're going to have to see if he's going to take advantage of his opportunity."
Tribe sends Duncan to Columbus
CLEVELAND -- The Indians' decision to send Shelley Duncan down to the Minor Leagues had more to do with the schedule than anything else, according to manager Manny Acta.
With the arrival of infield prospect Cord Phelps on Wednesday, the Tribe optioned Duncan to Triple-A Columbus to clear room on the roster. Acta said the move was made because the Indians are not facing many lefties over the next few series.
"We're only facing two left-handers over the next almost two weeks," Acta explained. "It made a lot more sense for us to keep a left-handed bat or two and send Shelley down. That's where his playing time comes in -- against lefties."
Duncan has been used primarily as a designated hitter of late, with DH Travis Hafner (right oblque) on the disabled list. Duncan's main responsibility for the Tribe, however, has been serving as a right-handed bat off the bench.
Overall, Duncan has hit .222 with two home runs and 17 RBIs through 29 games for Cleveland this season. In 21 starts, he hit just .192, and he headed to Triple-A on the heels of an 0-for-14 slump at the plate.
Acta said Duncan handled the demotion as well as could be expected.
"He's a pro," Acta said. "He handled it very well. He understands his role. We went over the whole thing, and he understands. I'm anticipating he'll be back. He's been a part of what we've done here, and hopefully, he'll be a part of what's coming."
Quote to note
"It's not like we have 21 head cases and four guys, if we move them out of there, everything will go out of whack. And we're bringing in another high-character guy [Cord Phelps], too. I think our farm system does very good job of finding those guys and developing them." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on sending Shelley Duncan, viewed as a team leader, to the Minors
Indians closer Chris Perez picked up his 15th save of the season in Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Twins. Perez had gone 10 days between saves for Cleveland. "It felt like three weeks," Perez said. Perez has not had a one-inning save since May 23. The one benefit to the down time is it has allowed the closer to rest his right elbow, which was sore during Spring Training and early in the season. "I really needed that lull to get healthy," Perez said. "Now, I feel a lot better than I did earlier in the year."
Indians catcher Carlos Santana manned first base on Wednesday, marking his second day in a row at the position. First baseman Matt LaPorta served as the DH after getting the day off on Tuesday. Lou Marson caught both games. Santana and LaPorta are both healthy. The moves were purely the decision of manager Manny Acta.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.