September 1, 2014

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Outfielders to split playing time – Tribe Notes

CLEVELAND — All of his outfielders are on track, and that’s the way Indians manager Eric Wedge wants it to stay.
Wedge said Saturday that Grady Sizemore would be the only lock in the lineup among his outfielders and that, at least initially, he planned on splitting up the rest of the playing time between Kenny Lofton, Jason Michaels, Trot Nixon and Franklin Gutierrez at the corner spots.
“We’re going to keep working it series-to-series and day-to-day, look at the matchups and take into account everything,” Wedge said. “We’re not going to predetermine anything. We’ve got a special situation in the outfield where a number of people are doing a good job, and we want to keep them sharp.”
Left field figures to be almost a straight platoon, with Lofton playing against right-handed pitching and Michaels against lefties. Lofton is hitting .221
(15-for-68) against lefties, while Michaels was at .302 (29-for-96) through Friday.
In right, Gutierrez appeared to be on his way to supplanting a struggling Trot Nixon, but Nixon has begun to pick up steam at the plate, hitting .309 (13-for-42) with three doubles and a home run in his last 14 games.
Nixon, who underwent offseason back surgery, began the year as the everyday player, but Gutierrez spelling him has worked out for both, with Gutierrez getting more comfortable on the big league level and Nixon beginning to show his worth with rest.
“We’re starting to see the benefits of that,” Wedge said. “(Nixon’s) bat speed’s improved, and the experience and leadership he gives us is off the charts.”
The new guy
Kenny Lofton gave his take on new teammates Travis Hafner and Sizemore after arriving in a trade from the Rangers on Friday.
On Sizemore: “He and I are a little different. I had the little bunts and the base hits. He can hit it out of the park. Defensively, he can flat out go get them, like I did back in the day.”
On Hafner: “Pronk? I’m not sure I understand that. But he’s big. I’ll tell you that much.”
Fultz fodder
Aaron Fultz will finally embark on a rehab assignment, more than a month after the left-hander landed on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his rib cage. He will start for Double-A Akron tonight, pitching one inning.
“Assuming everything is OK (after the start), we’ll have him pitch again in a couple days and go from there,” Wedge said.
Nice gesture
Members of the Bluffton College baseball team and coaching staff were guests of the Indians on Saturday.
The Bluffton contingent lunched with Wedge, some coaches and Indians players before touring the clubhouse and watching batting practice.
Wedge said he talked to the group about remaining a tight-knit team, following the death of five of their teammates in a bus accident in March.
“With everything that they’ve been through, the fact that they still have to move forward and go on, I think they’re always going to care about each other,” Wedge said. “You’ve got to keep moving and it looks like they have. That’s great to see.”
Minor details
Single-A Kinston is red-hot, going 35-15 over their last 50 games through Friday to improve to 64-36 on the year. Third baseman Wes Hodges, a second-round draft pick last season, entered Saturday batting .302 with eight homers and 50 RBIs in 72 games for Kinston.
– Class A Lake County’s Cirilo Cumberbatch hit three homers and drove in five runs for the Captains in an 11-3 victory over Hickory on Friday.
Roundin’ third
The Indians entered Saturday with a 22-12 record against Central Division foes, the second-best intra-division mark in baseball. Cleveland was 35-40 against the division last year.
– Victor Martinez snapped an
0-for-15 skid with a bloop single in the seventh off Johan Santana for Cleveland’s second hit.
– Angels outfielder Reggie Willits wears No. 77 in honor of Lofton, No. 7 for the majority of his career.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.