CLEVELAND — Fausto Carmona is one of the Indians’ top starting pitchers. Rafael Perez is one of their most effective late-inning relievers. And outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera have given the team more than a lift.
None of them were expected to be here.
“We’ve got a group of people here that have done an outstanding job and have been in more pivotal roles than anyone would have imagined,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “You can probably pick five or six guys that are in that tier of key components maybe more so than ever expected.”
Carmona was the lone representative of the four to grace the Indians’ opening-day roster, and only secured his spot in the rotation thanks to an injury to Cliff Lee.
The right-hander has morphed into one of the majors’ most effective starters, posting a 14-6 record in 26 starts, while ranking fourth in the American League through Tuesday with a 3.16 ERA.
Both Gutierrez (.264, 9 HR, 24 RBIs in 71 games through Tuesday) and Cabrera (.302, 1 HR, 8 RBIs in 15 games) have supplanted opening-day starters in right fielder Trot Nixon and second baseman Josh Barfield.
But Perez’s emergence has been the most surprising. The 25-year-old left-hander began the season in Double-A Akron’s rotation but has moved into a key role at the back end of Cleveland’s bullpen. He entered Wednesday with a 1-1 record and 1.70 ERA in 33 games, working scoreless outings in 17 of his 20 second-half appearances.
“I don’t think you envision someone coming up and filling the role he’s filled and doing the job he’s done,” Wedge said.
In and out
Wedge did not play the platoon card in left field against Minnesota’s Johan Santana, staying with Kenny Lofton rather than Jason Michaels, who normally plays against left-handers. Lofton entered the game 1-for-4 with five walks in his career against Santana, while Michaels was 1-for-20 with six strikeouts.
“It was just something I wanted to do,” said Wedge, whose hunch paid off immediately when Lofton singled to drive in Cleveland’s final run in a four-run first inning.
No Indians hitter has had more problems with Santana than Jhonny Peralta, who was out of the lineup, with Cabrera taking over at shortstop. Peralta is 3-for-28 with a whopping 22 strikeouts against Santana, joining the legions of hitters to struggle against the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
“That’s a long list,” Wedge said.
The Indians host the Mariners tonight at 7:05 in a makeup game from their snowed-out home-opening series April 6-9. Aaron Laffey (2-1, 4.76) starts for Cleveland against left-hander Horacio Ramirez (8-4, 6.67). The two teams will make up the final postponed game in Seattle as part of a traditional doubleheader on Sept. 26.
Akron first baseman Jordan Brown was named the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year, entering Wednesday with a .326 batting average, 32 doubles, 10 homers and 72 RBIs in 120 games. Brown was drafted in the fourth round in 2005 out of the University of Arizona.
• Triple-A Buffalo passed out its season-ending awards, naming first baseman Ryan Mulhern (.299, 16 HR, 75 RBIs) its most valuable player, Laffey (9-3, 3.08) its most valuable pitcher and infielder Luis Rivas (.262, 9 HR, 41 RBIs) its comeback player of the year.
The Indians entered Wednesday having spent 86 days atop the Central Division standings.
• Reliever Rafael Betancourt entered Wednesday 4 2/3 innings shy of his career high (67 2/3 in 2005) in the department. He had appeared in 54 games through Tuesday, 14 short of his career high.
• On Friday, the Indians will hold a single-game ticket lottery for potential playoff games at Jacobs Field. Fans can participate by visiting Indians.com/postseasontix or an Indians team shop.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.