April 24, 2014

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Tribe notes: Gutierrez earns more playing time

DETROIT — Expect to see Franklin Gutierrez in the Indians’ lineup on a more regular basis the rest of the season.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said the surging outfielder, who has been platooning with veteran Trot Nixon in right field, has earned more playing time against
right-handed pitching.
“He’s definitely worked to that,” Wedge said of Gutierrez, who is hitting .275 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 66 games for the Indians. “I think you’re going to see that happen.”
That’s bad news for Nixon, who has struggled to a .259 batting average with just three homers and 31 RBIs in 91 games after undergoing offseason back surgery.
Wedge has played Gutierrez against righties more in the past month, starting him against Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Wednesday night, with Gutierrez going 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs.
“In Triple-A I played every day,” Gutierrez said. “I faced right-handers all the time. I’m just trying to be ready for that. I don’t know when I’m going to play. I try to be ready for anything.”
Gutierrez, 24, seems to give the Indians more than the
33-year-old Nixon in every way, including defense.
His speed and fielding prowess were on display during the final two games of the series in Detroit — both wins.
In the victory over Verlander, Gutierrez covered plenty of ground to make a running catch on a drive to the right-center gap from Magglio Ordonez.
He made a leaping catch before crashing into the
right-field wall on a deep fly ball from Curtis Granderson to start a double play on Thursday.
“He’s done a great job in regards to his development and taking advantage of his time in the big leagues as well as Triple-A,” Wedge said. “He’s done a (heck) of a job.”

Order up

Grady Sizemore has adapted well to moving to third in the batting order, but should Cleveland’s offense continue to scuffle, Wedge reserved the right to return Sizemore to the top of the lineup.
“Grady’s proven to be one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, with the tools that only one or two other guys in the game have,” Wedge said. “Nothing’s set in stone.”
Sizemore is batting .296 (10 for 34) with two homers, four RBIs and six runs since Wedge shuffled the order on Aug. 14 (eight games). Lofton is hitting .292
(7-for-24) with one RBI, three runs and one stolen base out of the leadoff spot.
Cleveland is 4-3 since making the move.

Pen position

With Wedge relying heavily on his most effective threesome of Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt and closer Joe Borowski, there has been little work for the rest of the bullpen.
Right-hander Tom Mastny has made just one appearance since Aug. 4, while left-handed specialist Aaron Fultz has pitched just 42/3 innings this month.    

Next up

The Indians begin a three-game series at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium tonight at 8:10. C.C. Sabathia (14-6, 3.43) opens the set, opposing right-hander Zack Greinke (5-5, 4.40).
Aaron Laffey (1-1, 5.73) and Fausto Carmona (14-8, 3.11) are the scheduled starters Saturday (7:10 p.m.) and Sunday (2:10 p.m.), while the Royals counter with righties Kyle Davies (1-2, 5.03) and Gil Meche (7-11, 3.88).
Cleveland is 5-4 against KC this year.  

Minor details

Single-A Kinston’s Matt Whitney, who was recently named Carolina League player of the week, hit his 14th homer and drove in two of his team’s three runs in a 6-3 loss to Potomac on Wednesday. Whitney leads Indians minor leaguers with 107 RBIs — 31 more than anyone else in the organization.
Bo Greenwell, the son of former big leaguer Mike Greenwell and Cleveland’s sixth-round pick from the June draft, is off to a slow start. He entered Thursday batting .223 without a homer and just six RBIs in 34 games for the Gulf Coast League Indians.

Roundin’ third

Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera got the day off with Chris Gomez replacing him — a sign of just how far Josh Barfield has fallen. Barfield pinch ran for Victor Martinez in the 10th inning Thursday for his first appearance in seven games.
Reliever Rafael Perez struck out Granderson with two on and two out in the ninth inning to get his first big league victory.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.