ST. PETERSBURG -- Thanks to a new provision in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Indians will receive an extra selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball held its first Competitive Balance Lottery, giving teams in the 10 smallest markets and the 10 teams with the lowest revenues a chance to earn additional Draft picks.
Cleveland drew the second selection in Round B, which will follow the second round of the First-Year Player Draft. The pick will likely fall between pick Nos. 70-75.
Besides the Indians, the D-backs, Orioles, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, A's, Pirates, Cardinals, Padres and Rays represented the 13 eligible clubs for the lottery. The Tigers were added to the pool of teams eligible for Round Two.
A club's odds of winning the lottery were based on its winning percentage in the previous year. Kansas City earned the top pick in Round A, which will follow the first round. Teams who net one of additional selections also have the ability to trade the picks.
Brantley starting to draw more walks
ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps there is an element of respect being shown on the part of pitchers. Surely, what has been going on lately is a product of Michael Brantley's offensive tear for the Indians. Whatever the reason, Brantley is being walked more often these days.
Brantley drew two walks for Cleveland in Tuesday's loss to Tampa Bay, and the Indians' hot-hitting center fielder drew a career-high three free passes in Monday's win. Pitchers have been trying to get Brantley to swing at pitches outside the strike zone and he has not been biting.
"You never want to expand your zone," Brantley said prior to Wednesday's game at Tropicana Field. "I'm kind of getting some pitches that are borderline and, basically, I'm staying off of them right now. If I can continue to do that, hopefully I'll get some more pitches in the strike zone."
Entering Wednesday, Brantley had drawn 15 walks over his past 72 plate appearances, after having drawn 15 waks in his last 361 PA, dating back to last July. The recent surge in freebies has come during an extremely strong stretch for the Tribe's center fielder.
Brantley headed into Wednesday's game hitting .434 (23-for-53) over his past 16 games. Dating back to May 20, when he was hitting .255 for the Indians, Brantley has hit .341 (60-for-176) across 48 games, raising his season average to .300. He also entered Wednesday with the highest contact rate (92 percent) in the American League.
"I don't think it's that they don't want to pitch to him," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He is patient enough. When he's going good, that's what happens. When you're hitting good, the result is you're not chasing, you're not expanding and you're swinging at good pitches to hit. It's a byproduct of being in a good groove."
Brantley had four home runs, 27 doubles, three triples, 40 runs scored and 44 RBIs through 87 games for Cleveland this season entering Wednesday, and he hit his fourth triple in his first plate appearance on Wednesday. He has posted a .356 on-base percentage to go along with a .433 slugging percentage.
"When you're going well, you see the ball better," Brantley said. "If you can consistently stay in the zone and swing at quality strikes, the better off you're going to be and you'll be able to have success at a high rate for a longer period of time."
Acta standing by Santana during slump
ST. PETERSBURG -- Indians manager Manny Acta has maintained a consistent approach throughout Carlos Santana's ongoing offensive slump. Acta has kept Cleveland's catcher in the lineup, giving him a chance to fight his way out of the funk.
For Wednesday's 10-6 win over the Rays, Santana remained in the batting order and was actually bumped back up to the fifth spot after hitting seventh in the previous game against the Rays. Santana responded by going 2-for-4 with a three-run home run, one walk, two runs scored and four RBIs for Cleveland.
"It was nice to see that," Acta said. "He finally got that monkey off his back with that homer, which was huge."
Acta said that he feels the best approach with slumping players such as Santana is to keep them on the field.
"We'll continue to be positive with them and play them," Acta said of his struggling hitters. "That's the only way they're going to get better. Carlos is hanging in there. He's getting his walks here and there. The only way they're going to get out of it is by playing."
Entering Wednesday, Santana was hitting .221 with five home runs and 30 RBIs through 74 games for the Indians. Through his first 74 games a year ago, Santana hit just .225, but he had belted 11 home runs with 35 RBIs, and was on his way to a 27-homer, 79-RBI showing for the Tribe.
Santana's home run on Wednesday ended a homerless drought of 136 at-bats -- a stretch that dated back to May 15. The catcher's season average peaked at .269 on May 17, but he had hit just .172 with eight RBIs in the 38 games since that point, entering Wednesday. Pitchers have given Santana fewer fastballs this year, and a steady dose of offspeed offerings.
"He continues just to struggle with his balance at the plate," Acta said. "He's pull happy. He's working. He's working hard with [hitting coach Bruce Fields], but it's going to take time. It's not going to be one at-bat or two at-bats. As of late, he has been seeing the ball better, because at least he's walking."
Rafael Perez getting closer to returning
ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the Indians' issues this season has been a lack of a consistent performance by its left-handed relievers. A large part of the problem has been the absence of veteran southpaw Rafael Perez.
"We feel that he could help us up here," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
On Wednesday, Perez was transferred to Triple-A Columbus to continue his rehab from a left-lat strain that has kept him sidelined since April 26. Perez, who is on the 60-day disabled list, is scheduled to pitch in a bullpen session in Cleveland on Friday following his outing with Columbus.
Beyond that, Acta said the current plan calls for Perez to pitch in back-to-back Minor League rehab games (likely with Double-A Akron) on Monday and Tuesday. Barring setbacks, it is possible that the Indians will consider activating the left-hander after that final step in the process.
Perez turned in a 3.00 ERA in 71 games for the Indians last season, and had a 3.52 ERA in eight appearances this year before being shelved with the injury.
Cleveland's other lefty options have struggled over the past few months. Tony Sipp has posted a 5.40 ERA through 36 games and is now being used primarily as a lefty specialist. Nick Hagadone had a 6.39 ERA in 27 appearances, but is likely done for the season with a left-hand injury. Rookie Scott Barnes has an 8.31 ERA through six games.
One issue with Perez was a significant drop in velocity earlier this season. The lefty was consistently clocked around 83-85 mph before being placed on the disabled list, but Acta said Wednesday that Perez was back up to 85-87 mph in his recent Minor League outings.
"It's going to take a little bit of time to get him up to that 89-91, where he used to be," Acta said. "But, if he's pain free, he relies a lot on movement and stuff like that."
Quote to note
"It's a little boring. It's not fun. You always want to swing the bat. But, getting on base for your teammates behind you, and constantly trying to put a little pressure on the pitcher, is not a bad thing."
--Indians center fielder Michael Brantley, on drawing more walks of late
Class A (short-season) Mahoning Valley outfielder Tyler Naquin, who was the Indians' top pick (15th overall) in the First-Year Player Draft last month, has hit .301 (22-for-73) through 19 games. Naquin has piled up four doubles, two triples, 10 RBIs, 11 walks, 16 strikeouts and three stolen bases. The left-handed hitter has also posted a .455 (10-for-22) mark against lefites.
Relievers Tony Sipp and Jeremy Accardo combined to log 2 1/3 shutout innings for the Indians in Tuesday's loss to the Rays. That marked the ninth time in the past 14 games that Cleveland's bullpen has blanked the opposition. Over that span, the Tribe's bullpen has posted a 2.23 ERA and a .189 opponents' average.
Entering Wednesday's game, the Indians had just seven errors over their past 21 games. Cleveland's .986 team fielding percentage ranked fourth overall in the Major Leagues, trailing only the Mariners (.990), White Sox (.989) and Reds (.986).