CLEVELAND — Jose Lopez is making manager Manny Acta look like a genius.
Acta was a proponent of signing the veteran Venezuelan infielder this offseason and it has paid off with Lopez serving as a legitimate run producer — .268 with four home runs and 27 RBIs in 44 games — despite filling a limited role.
“He swings away. He’s very aggressive,” Acta said. “That’s how you drive in runs, swinging the bat. Lopey has been around. He’s not afraid to go the other way. He drives in runs. That’s his nature.
“Right now if you look at his numbers, it’s pretty impressive the amount of RBIs he has with his at-bats. It projects to a pretty good amount of them in 500 at-bats.”
The 28-year-old Lopez, an All-Star with Seattle in 2006, made Cleveland’s Opening Day roster as a utility infielder, but was sent down shortly into the season to clear room for Johnny Damon.
Since his return, Lopez is batting .280 with 24 RBIs in 39 games. His 27 RBIs in 152 at-bats on the year averages out to one RBI per 5.6 at-bats.
As expected, the Indians activated designated hitter Travis Hafner from the disabled list with Shelley Duncan being placed on the paternity list.
Acta thinks having Hafner back in the lineup will benefit a struggling Carlos Santana, who is batting .218 with five homers and 29 RBIs in 65 games.
“It helps us lengthen our lineup and it should take some pressure off (Santana),” Acta said. “Travis should get the pressure. He’s been around longer. It’s easier for him to handle the pressure over a kid like Carlos.”
Acta said Hafner (right knee surgery) would not play every day from the start, but that he would not have limitations placed on him like with past injuries.
Duncan’s wife is expecting twins and he is expected to remain on the paternity list for three days at the most. Cleveland will have to make a move once he returns.
Kipnissing a slump?
Second baseman Jason Kipnis is scuffling at the plate, hitting just .236 (13-for-55) with eight RBIs over his last 15 games.
“I’m mixing in my hits, but I’m not feeling real good at the plate right now,” said Kipnis, who went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI single in the series finale with Los Angeles.
The Indians wrap up the first half with a four-game series against Tampa Bay that begins tonight at Progressive Field.
Josh Tomlin (4-5, 5.85 ERA) opens the set, opposing RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-4, 3.44), while Justin Masterson (5-7, 3.92) goes for Cleveland on Friday (7:05 p.m.) against RHP Alex Cobb (3-5, 4.94).
Ubaldo Jimenez (7-7, 4.59) starts for the Indians on Saturday (6:05 p.m.), while the Rays counter with LHP Matt Moore (5-5, 4.17). Zach McAllister (3-1, 3.93) pitches the series finale Sunday (1:05 p.m.) against RHP James Shields (8-5, 4.11).
- Damon recorded his first three-hit game and first outfield assist since joining the Indians. The assist was the first since 2010 for Damon, who is batting .333 (13-for-39) with two homers and seven RBIs over his last 12 games.
- Reliever Esmil Rogers has posted a 1.59 ERA in nine appearances (11⅓ innings) since being acquired by the Indians in a trade with the Rockies for cash considerations. Opposing batters are hitting just .150 (6-for-40) off the right-hander, who has struck out 15 and walked just one.