April 21, 2014

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Tribe notes: GM Shapiro not panicking over recent slide

CLEVELAND — It is Indians general manager Mark Shapiro’s practice to meet with the media when his team is struggling. Sunday was one of those days.
The Indians are 13-17 since the All-Star break, in a terrible offensive funk and have fallen out of first place in the Central Division, but though his club is failing at an inopportune time, the sixth-year GM is not sounding the alarm.
“The danger in this game is looking at any juncture in time and making sweeping evaluations off that moment,” Shapiro said. “Dwelling on how we got here is not productive. If you would have come to me in March and told me we’d be where we are in the standings, I would have signed up for that.
“The focus should be on the here on out and the opportunity we have. That’s what you want. The alternative is playing meaningless games right now. The beauty is to be at this point with this opportunity, this moment.”
Cleveland’s recent track record as a contender down the stretch is not a good one. The Indians squandered a playoff opportunity with a monumental collapse over the final week of the season in 2005 and dropped out of the race by August last year.
Shapiro wouldn’t predict these Indians would make a trip to the playoffs — just that he expected the team to be in contention until the end of the regular season.
“We’re here the rest of the way right now,” he said. “It’s not what happened, it’s what can happen.”
Shapiro touched on a number of other topics as well:
On the Indians’ offensive struggles: “When you don’t hit, it affects the tempo of the game and creates a feel of a lack of energy. It’s one of the hardest things to get out of and we’re in the thick of it right now.”
On not making a major move at the trading deadline: “I don’t think we missed an opportunity. We got one of the more meaningful bats (Kenny Lofton) on the market. I’m thankful for some of the trades we didn’t do.”
On the struggles of designated hitter Travis Hafner: “He’s still having a good year by mortal standards. He’s just not having a good year for him and for our expectations of him.”

Pronk’s prognosis

Though head trainer Lonnie Soloff and manager Eric Wedge said Hafner (mild hamstring strain, knee inflammation) could be available as a pinch hitter during the series with the Yankees, he did not make an appearance.
Hafner, who has missed the last four games, was scheduled to take batting practice on Sunday, with both Wedge and Soloff saying they were hopeful the designated hitter could return to the lineup Tuesday.

Cliff hanger

It appears that Cliff Lee will return to the Indians’ rotation the next time the team needs a fifth starter (Aug. 25).
Lee, who was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo on July 27, worked just  31/3 innings for the Bisons on Saturday and will most likely do the same in his next outing in order to line him up for the start at Kansas City.
The left-hander is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts for Buffalo.
“Cliff’s made strides in the things we laid out for him to do,” Shapiro said.

Goliath and David

The Indians have had trouble coping with the big guns in the American League — perennial powers Boston and New York.
In 13 games against the Red Sox and Yankees, Cleveland is 2-11, losing all six meetings with New York, which included three-game sweeps at Yankee Stadium and Jacobs Field.
Boston and New York have outscored the Indians 83-42, with the Yankees drubbing Cleveland 49-17.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter entered Sunday with a .388
(73-for-188) batting average at Jacobs Field — the highest by an opponent at Cleveland’s home park.

Next up

The Indians are off today, beginning a two-game series Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) with the Tigers at Jacobs Field.
C.C. Sabathia (14-6, 3.52) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing right-hander Jeremy Bonderman  (10-5, 4.75). Fausto Carmona
(13-7, 3.26) will go in Game 2 on Wednesday (7:05), with Detroit yet to name a starter.
The Indians are 6-4 against the Tigers this season.

Not Miller time

Don’t expect to see Cleveland’s top prospect, right-hander Adam Miller, in an Indians uniform any time soon.
Miller is rehabbing his second injury of the season — elbow inflammation — and though he is close to returning to the mound for Buffalo, Shapiro doesn’t see him as immediate bullpen assistance.
“He’s not in my radar screen right now,” he said. “He’s in Lonnie Soloff’s radar screen. He’s a rehabilitating pitcher right now.”

Minor details

Double-A Akron banged out 16 hits in a 9-1 rout of New Britain on Saturday. Two of the Indians’ top prospects, outfielder Trevor Crowe and first baseman Michael Aubrey, had big days, with Crowe, Cleveland’s top draft pick in 2005, going 3-for-5 with two triples, an RBI and three runs, while Aubrey, a first-round pick in 2003, went
3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Class A Mahoning Valley’s Daniel Frega improved to 5-1 with a 2.79 ERA Saturday, throwing five hitless innings in a 7-0 victory over Aberdeen. Frega, a 12th-round pick in 2006 out of Illinois State, struck out nine and walked one.

Roundin’ third

The three-game total — 125,264 — from the Yankees series, which included the biggest crowd of the year (41,977) in the second game on Saturday, pushed the Indians over the two-million mark in attendance. It is the earliest the team has reached the plateau since 2002.
Since Lofton joined the Indians for his third tour of duty, the team is 6-10, with the outfielder, who is batting .296, hitting .250 (12-for-48) with a double and two RBIs in 14 games for Cleveland.
The Indians entered Sunday with the same record (65-52) they had in 2001, the last year Cleveland qualified for the postseason.  
Contact Chris Assenheimer
at 329-7135 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.