CLEVELAND — Weekends are usually a time to relax. Not so much, if you’re a major league team looking to stay in the thick of the American League Central Division.
Reeling from a 13-9 beat down Friday to the Texas Rangers and still burning from a seven-game losing streak, the Indians made two roster moves Saturday to keep themselves afloat.
One out of necessity and the other because some things just aren’t what they used to be.
The Tribe placed right-hander Fausto Carmona on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip strain and purchased the contract of righty Scott Elarton from Class AAA.
Jensen Lewis, who was born in Medina, was sent packing to the Bisons and Edward Mujica was brought up to fill his spot in the bullpen.
“We’re not sure how serious it is, but it’s serious enough to put him on the DL,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge of Carmona. “We won’t know how serious until we get the test results back (from the MRI). Right now, he’s on the 15-day DL. We’re hopeful it’s not serious.”
Carmona left Friday’s game in the third inning after coming off the mound to cover first. He was 4-2 with a 3.10 earned run average in 10 starts for the Tribe before making his first career stint on the DL.
The rotation is now down to four pitchers — C.C. Sabathia, Aaron Laffey, Cliff Lee and Paul Byrd. Jake Westbrook, who threw six solid innings for Class AA Akron, is expected to come off the DL and start Wednesday against Chicago.
In the case of Lewis, it was just a matter of a pitcher who showed tremendous promise last year not having the same stuff in 2008.
In 20 games of relief for the Wahoos this year, Lewis was 0-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 272/3 innings of work with 19 strikeouts and 15 walks. It’s the velocity, Wedge questioned as the righty regularly was hitting in the low 90s last season but has struggled so far with a fastball clocked between 85-88 mph.
“Without a doubt, that was the best move to make,” Wedge said. “He did a decent job, but we need to get him back to where he was last year so we can use him as late as possible.
“If we can get him going again, we can get him back here as soon as possible. He’s not lacking in confidence. He’s just never really come back from last year. He’s not pitching with the same command, the same velocity.”
Mujica, 24, was up and down between Buffalo and Cleveland five times last year. This season he was 0-2 with four saves and a 4.15 ERA for the Bisons.
In his last 13 appearances with Buffalo, he allowed just two earned runs. In 2007 with the Tribe, Mujica was 0-0 with an 8.31 ERA in 10 appearances.
Elarton, 33, was signed to a minor league free-agent contract with an invitation to spring training. He made 15 appearances out of the pen for Buffalo, going 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA, while limiting hitters to a .223 average. He’s yielded just one earned run in his last eight appearances.
“He’s a strike thrower, you know what you’re going to get from him,” said Wedge of Elarton, who pitched for the Tribe from 2004-05. “He’s done a good job down there. He’s very consistent.”
Victor Martinez, a late scratch in the series opener with the Rangers, was missing again from the lineup on Saturday.
The Tribe catcher tore a hangnail off his left middle finger and, um, bit off more than he could chew.
“I really thought he’d be back in there, but he’s struggling with gripping the bat,” Wedge said. “He got a shot (Friday), but as it has worn off, it’s bothering him a bit more. Hopefully he can come back and get better. It’s one of those freakish things. He just ripped it off and tore off more than he should have.”
Some questioned the move of Lewis, insisting it should have been Jorge Julio instead. The right-hander has a 5.60 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 15 appearances this season, but has given up two home runs in his last three outings. In those three games, Julio has given up six runs — all earned — in 31/3 innings and is boasting a robust 16.20 ERA. He gave up five runs in Friday’s loss, coming in for Carmona in the third.
“It’s been the last couple outings,” Wedge said. “He’s got some good stuff, if not the best we have.”
Wedge called another team meeting and, again, it was about the miserable hitting.
After 48 games, the Indians’ batting average is .231, worst in the AL and well below the .259 average of the rest of the league.
“We scored nine runs, but we lost the game,” Wedge said. “It was just a bad game to watch. Too many wasted at-bats. I’m tired of talking about it. They need to go out there and play. It’s paralysis by analysis. If they need to get mad at me, then so be it, but I know they’re capable of doing it. They need to get better. This is the big leagues.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.