SAN FRANCISCO -- Travis Hafner has gone from the Indians' designated hitter to its designated sitter. Over the next nine games, Hafner will be forced into the role of spectator as Cleveland plays under National League rules.
It is not something that sits well with Indians manager Manny Acta,
"He's at his peak right now," Acta said. "He's so intimidating and locked in at the plate. It's just sad that we're not going to be able to see him out there every day for nine days -- very sad."
Chalk it up to an unfortunate stretch of Interleague scheduling.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
This season, the Tribe is the only team from the American League Central to play nine consecutive games in National League ballparks. Cleveland's first stop is currently San Francisco, and the club heads to Arizona and Cincinnati over the next two series.
In the AL, the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Angels have also been scheduled for nine straight road games against the Senior Circuit. Cleveland, however, also played nine Interleague road games in a row in 2010. The Tribe is the only AL team to have two such treks in the past two seasons.
Due to right shoulder issues in recent seasons, Hafner is not able to play first base and risk the throws that would likely come along with manning the position. As a result, Cleveland's cleanup hitter is now the team's primary pinch-hitter. It is a tough loss for the Tribe, considering Hafner's recent production.
Entering Friday, Hafner was hitting .338 with seven home runs, nine doubles, 19 runs scored, 29 RBIs and a .981 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 37 games for the Indians. Since returning from a month-long stint on the disabled list due to a right oblique injury, Hafner has hit .294 (5-for-17) with two homers and seven RBIs in five games.
Last year, Hafner hit at a .345 clip with four homers and 10 RBIs in the nine games leading up to the nine-game road swing under NL rules. Then, Hafner went 0-for-5 during those games as a pinch-hitter. Once Hafner returned to his DH duties, he hit .235 with no homers and one RBI in the nine games after that stretch.
Hafner plans on doing all he can to stay sharp this time around.
"I'll do the same thing," he said. "I'll just watch a lot of bullpens from our pitchers, do a lot of work in the cage and study the opposing pitchers, the bullpen, stuff like that. I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot.
"Hopefully I'll be able to get up in a chance with some runners on and get some big hits. You just kind of stay ready for anything."
Indians release reliever Lewis
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Indians have parted ways with reliever Jensen Lewis, releasing the right-hander from the club's Triple-A Columbus affiliate Thursday night.
On Friday, Lewis took to his Twitter account to express his surprise.
"Completely shell-shocked," wrote Lewis, who tweets under the moniker of @JLEWFifty. "Never thought this would happen."
Lewis, 27, was a third-round pick by Cleveland during the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and as a rookie in '07 he helped the Tribe reach the American League Championship Series. This season, however, the righty was not able to crack the Indians' Opening Day roster.
After a rough showing in Spring Training, Lewis cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A Columbus to open the season. In 22 games for the Clippers, he went 3-2 with a 5.14 ERA, piling up 22 hits, 15 walks and 40 hits allowed in 28 innings. Lewis posted a 7.45 ERA in 15 games between May and June.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said that other relief options had passed Lewis on the organizational depth chart.
"As we looked at our near-term bullpen options," Antonetti wrote in an e-mail, "we felt there were a few other pitchers that would likely get a Major League opportunity with us ahead of Jensen.
"As a result, we decided to allow Jensen to find an opportunity with another team that may provide him a quicker path back to the Major League level. It also allows us to promote other pitchers within the system."
In parts of four seasons with the Indians, Lewis went 7-11 with a 3.68 ERA in 161 games. As a rookie in '07, the right-hander fashioned a 2.15 ERA over 26 games. Last year, Lewis had a 2.97 ERA in 37 games out of Cleveland's bullpen.
Lewis, who was born in Cincinnati, also used his Twitter feed to thank the Indians organization for the opportunity it gave him and to offer appreciation to the team's fan base.
"I want to thank all the Indians fans for their support over the years," Lewis wrote. "Grew up always wanting to play for the Tribe [and] I've lived a dream."
Duncan back with improved swing
SAN FRANCISCO -- Playing on an everyday basis for Triple-A Columbus, Shelley Duncan was able to sort through some mechanical flaws in his swing and approach at the plate. He is ready to put the changes to the test for Cleveland.
On Friday, the Indians officially recalled Duncan from Columbus, one day after optioning outfielder Travis Buck to Triple-A. Duncan provides the Tribe with a skilled pinch-hitter off the bench as well as an option against left-handed pitching.
Duncan, sent down to Columbus on June 8, feels the stint in the Minors helped.
"I was able to make some adjustments that I needed to do," Duncan said prior to Friday's game against the Giants. "I was getting out of a lot of bad habits that you tend to get in when you don't play a lot or you're just facing lefties. I got my swing to a spot where I'm happy with it."
Indians manager Manny Acta noted that the Tribe is scheduled to face a handful of left-handed starters throughout its nine-game road trip through three Interleague cities. Acta did not rule out giving Duncan a start or two at first base, especially considering the designated-hitter role is unavailable.
Otherwise, Duncan will be used as the team's main right-handed pinch-hitter.
"We didn't feel we were going to be using Buck as much [on this road trip]," Acta said. "Shelley comes in handy."
Duncan is 4-for-7 with two doubles and seven RBIs as a pinch-hitter this season. Over the past two years with the Indians, he has hit .357 (10-for-28) with one homer and 12 RBIs in that role. In 29 games with Cleveland this season, Duncan has hit .222 (18-for-81) with two homers, six doubles and 17 RBIs.
Brantley gets third day off with sore shoulder
SAN FRANCISCO -- Michael Brantley was out of the starting lineup for the Indians on Friday night, marking the third day off in a row for the outfielder. Brantley was given the break in order to rest a sore left shoulder.
"We felt that a couple of days off would help," Indians manager Manny Acta said before Friday's Interleague game against the Giants. "He should be ready to go tomorrow."
Brantley took part in batting practice and played catch Friday and made it clear that he was available off the bench, if needed. The outfielder also echoed Acta's comments, indicating that he expects to be ready for Saturday's game in San Francisco.
Acta gave Brantley a day off Wednesday for the team's game against the Rockies and the Indians had a team off-day Thursday.
"It's nothing serious," Brantley said. "He just wanted to give me an extra day. I'm ready to go off the bench. Whenever they need me, I'll be ready to go."
Entering Friday, Brantley was hitting .274 with five home runs, 12 doubles, 28 RBIs and 40 runs scored through 70 games for Cleveland.
Quote to note
"It's not fair for the rest of the league. That team is really good. There's nobody that is just blowing out of the water. It's just they're overloaded with good baseball players at all positions, and good pitching." --Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan, on Cleveland's Triple-A Columbus team, which owns a 51-23 record
With no designated hitter available in National League ballparks, the Indians started catcher Carlos Santana at first base and Lou Marson behind the plate for Friday's game in San Francisco. Hafner was relegated to the bench. That will likely be the main alignment throughout this nine-game swing against the Giants, D-backs and Reds.
Major League Baseball instructed the Elias Sports Bureau to make an official scoring change for the Indians game against the Tigers on June 15. In the bottom of the first inning, a grounder from Detroit's Miguel Cabrera was initially ruled a single. It has now been changed to an error by Cleveland third baseman Jack Hannahan. As a result, Tribe starter Fausto Carmona's ERA was reduced from 6.17 to 5.98.
The Indians signed right-hander Matt Curtis as a non-drafted free agent Friday. Curtis has been assigned to Cleveland's Arizona Rookie League team. Curtis went 11-0 with a 3.19 ERA in 14 starts for the University of Central Missouri this year. Has has a 21-2 career record in four years as a starter for UCM.