MIAMI -- The Indians have struggled to get consistent production from their left-handed relievers this season, but the club feels that is improving.
Veteran lefty Rich Hill has been performing better of late for the Tribe, and the team also recently acquired lefty Marc Rzepczynski in a trade with the Cardinals. Rzepczynski helps add a second option for the bullpen, but manager Terry Francona said Hill's recent outings were especially encouraging.
"That's been huge," Francona said. "When he's throwing the way he throws, it complements our bullpen. Not only are you getting key outs, but you're not having Cody [Allen] or [Bryan] Shaw face guys they're not supposed to face."
On the season, Hill has a 6.07 ERA, but the left-hander has posted a 3.29 ERA with a .130 opponents' batting average over his past 22 appearances. During that recent stretch, left-handed hitters have gone just 3-for-21 (.103) against Hill.
In the seventh inning of Friday's 10-0 loss to the Marlins, Francona got his first look at Rzepczynski, who was reeled in from the Cardinals on Tuesday in exchange for Class A infielder Juan Herrera. Rzepczynski faced three batters, with two groundouts and a flyout.
"We got him mostly to face lefties," Francona said. "With the situation in the game, he faced all righties, but his velocity was good. He threw a couple pretty good breaking balls. When he missed, he missed so far out of the zone that it wasn't like a hanger. It was actually kind of what we expected stuff-wise.
"There's a lot to like there. It'll be interesting to kind of see where it goes. He's a guy that is controllable for the next couple of years [through 2015], and he's a lefty that throws well. I think it's a nice addition to our organization."
One reason that adding Rzepczynski to the fold helps the Indians is the ongoing struggles of lefty Nick Hagadone, who is currently at Triple-A Columbus. In 28 games with Cleveland this year, Hagdone posted a 5.33 ERA. Through 16 games at Triple-A, the 27-year-old lefty had a 2.61 ERA, but had issued 16 walks in 20 2/3 innings.
"It's a little big inconsistent, which is I guess disappointing in a way," Francona said of Hagadone. "Because you desperately want Nick to be so good. We all feel like it's there. I think eventually it'll come out. I don't know when, but when it does, it's going to be exciting. And rather than be frustrated and trade a guy, we'd much rather persevere through it and, when the light comes on, have him be here.
"I think for a while when he was pitching here he was pitching to not get sent down. You tell guys not to do that, but some guys handle it better than others. That's just kind of the way it is when you have options and things like that. It affects some guys more than others."
Spacious Marlins Park outfield tricky for Indians
MIAMI -- Michael Brantley ran as hard as he could, and then he ran some more. In the first inning Friday night, the Indians left fielder learned just how spacious the outfield is at Marlins Park.
The flared fly ball off the bat of Logan Morrison tailed down the left-field line, where the baseball dropped in just beyond the glove of a diving Brantley. That helped Miami to its first run, which proved to be plenty considering Cleveland dropped a 10-0 decision.
"I felt like I was never going to get there," Brantley said. "And I was actually playing a little over toward the line. But it's such a big outfield, and that ball was just fading away from me. It was well placed, I guess you could say."
Entering Saturday's game, Marlins Park had produced the fewest home runs (62) in the Major Leagues while generating the most triples (34). Friday's game put those statistics on full display: neither team launched a home run, but the Marlins collected a pair of three-base hits.
The Indians boast one of baseball's faster outfield trios in Brantley, Michael Bourn (center field) and Drew Stubbs (right field). The fact that they struggled to chase down fly balls Friday night showed just how big the outfield plays in Miami.
In the third inning Friday, Stubbs did all he could to snare a bloop hit to shallow right, but the baseball popped out of his glove as he made a sliding catch attempt. Rookie shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria wound up with an unlikely double.
"If our guys don't get to them, probably nobody will," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Brantley made a great effort on the one, but it's a big outfield. It's a little quirky, which is OK. I'm sure you could see there'd be some triples and, if you're not careful, some inside-the-park homers."
Brantley said his biggest issue was positioning himself prior to each pitch.
"This felt like the biggest outfield I've ever been in," Brantley said. "You kind of stand out there, and you look around, you're not going run into too many objects, that's for sure. You have a lot of room to roam. But, at the same time, you kind of feel out of place a little bit. You're kind of out in the middle of nowhere.
"You usually have a good feel of where you want to be. Positioning was difficult for me. One, I'd never been here. Two, it's such a big outfield. And it also plays quick on the ground -- short grass that plays quick. So you kind of have to hold all those thoughts in your head and kind of adjust your route accordingly."
Top prospect Lindor unlikely to see Triple-A in '13
MIAMI -- The easy thing for the Indians to do would be to get carried away with the success of Francisco Lindor and promote him to Triple-A Columbus earlier than expected. That is precisely what Cleveland wants to avoid in its handling of its top prospect.
"This kid's future is really bright," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But there's a path."
Lindor excelled at High A Carolina earlier this year and has not missed a beat since moving up to Double-A Akron in July. It would take an unanticipated development, however, for the Indians to move the 19-year-old shortstop to Triple-A Columbus this season.
Ross Atkins, the Indians' vice president of player development, has been with the Indians throughout the current series against the Marlins. In discussing Lindor, Atkins indicated that the switch-hitting shortstop was not expected to see Triple-A this year.
"There's not much upside to it unless we thought he could impact our big league club this year," Atkins said. "The most likely scenario is that he'd stay at Akron."
Through 100 games between Carolina and Akron this season, Lindor has posted a slash line of .308/.382/.413 to go along with two home runs, 21 doubles, seven triples, 25 stolen bases, 34 RBIs, 46 walks and 62 runs. In 17 games since being promoted to Double-A, he has hit .317 with an .855 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Francona said the last thing the Indians wanted to was rush Lindor up the Minor League ladder unnecessarily.
"I don't think we would do that," Francona said. "There's a difference between developing and getting a kid in over his head. It's making guys earn it -- that's an important part of it. As an organization, we have a responsibility of making sure our Major League team is good enough where you don't have to hand guys jobs. I think [general manager Chris Antonetti] has done a great job of doing that."
Quote to note
"That was one of the better pitched games we've seen all year. You can see why they like him so much. He's young, mechanically sound; he's got velocity, breaking ball, changeup, and it looked like he competes. That was pretty impressive."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, who struck out 14 in eight innings against the Tribe on Friday
• The Indians will have right-handers Corey Kluber (Monday) and Justin Masterson (Tuesday) start the first two games of the four-game series against the Tigers. Francona said he needed to go over some things with Antonetti before announcing the probable starters for Wednesday and Thursday.
If Cleveland's rotation stayed intact, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach McAllister would be lined up for the last two games of the set against Detroit. Francona indicated that the team would most likely have more information prior to Sunday's game in Miami.
"We're talking over a few different things, and obviously one impacts another and things like that," Francona said Saturday. "We'll get to it. Kluber is the first day, and Masty is the second day. From there, we're kind of contemplating a few things."
• The Indians made two Minor League transactions Saturday. Cleveland traded Triple-A right-hander Fernando Nieve to the A's in exchange for cash considerations and sent right-hander Joe Martinez outright to Triple-A Columbus. Martinez was designated for assignment on Tuesday to clear room on Cleveland's 40-man roster for Rzepczynski.
• Even after sustaining a 10-0 drubbing at the hands of the Marlins on Friday, the Indians still boasted the third-best team ERA (3.52) in the American League over the team's past 46 games, dating back to June 11. Dating back to July 8, Cleveland's rotation had gone 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and a .207 opponents' average.
• Indians fans hardly need to be reminded of the Tribe's history against the Marlins, who beat Cleveland in the 1997 World Series. In Interleague Play, Cleveland had posted a 4-9 record against Miami entering Saturday's meeting at Marlins Park. Within that showing, Cleveland had been shut out four times, all on the road.