CLEVELAND — Indians left fielders Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan have a great deal in common beyond their position.
Not only are they among the oldest players on the Tribe, each recently welcomed twins into his family.
And if the boos heard at home games are any indication, Damon and Duncan might be the least popular athletes in Cleveland.
“Everybody wants that 30-home run guy and that .300 hitter, but they’re not easy to find,” Damon said Thursday before the Indians’ full-team workout at Progressive Field. “If they were, everybody would go out and get one.
“Our job is just to be as good as we can be in the second half of the season. That’s all we can do. We can’t get caught up thinking about anything else.”
“Anything else,” of course, refers to the possibility that general manager Chris Antonetti will acquire a new left fielder in the next two weeks.
The MLB trade deadline is July 31, putting major pressure on Damon and Duncan to produce as Cleveland begins the second half of its season tonight in Toronto.
Damon is batting .215 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 50 games since joining the Indians on May 1, while Duncan is hitting .222 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 57 games.
Since both are mediocre defensive players, at best, it’s easy to see why most fans expect Antonetti to make a move.
“Shelley and I were talking about it earlier. If you put our numbers together as the starting left fielder, some of them are all right, but the average stinks,” Damon said of their combined .218. “Duncan has been better since his twins were born. So have I since our twins arrived. We need to keep that going.”
As Damon noted, the top half of the Tribe’s batting order has been good through 85 games.
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (.299), center fielder Michael Brantley (.288), All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (.286) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (.277) have carried the club.
At the other end of the spectrum are catcher Carlos Santana (.221), oft-injured designated hitter Travis Hafner (.231), first baseman Casey Kotchman (.241), and third baseman Jack Hannahan (.245).
As a team, Cleveland ranks seventh in the American League in runs (385), eighth in batting average (.258) and 11th in home runs (78).
“We need Carlos to be better, and we also need Hafner to have a better second half to get our offense competing at the level we know we can,” manager Manny Acta said. “All the guys that have been struggling need to come in here every day, do their thing, and stay within themselves and try to improve.”
Fortunately for all involved, the Tribe locker room remains supportive of its struggling sticks. Numerous players went out of their way to greet Damon, Duncan and Kotchman as the team reconvened after the All-Star break.
“I’m confident in the guys we have now,” Kipnis said. “You hear things and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I believe in this group. We did pretty well in the first half, but we still haven’t played our best baseball yet.”
Relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano agreed.
“I think this team is in a very good spot with the players here in this room,” he said. “If (a trade) happens, it’s gonna happen, but I don’t think one has to be made for us to make a run. I like our chances.”
So does the 38-year-old Damon, who has helped the Athletics, Red Sox, Yankees and Rays reach the playoffs since 2001 — and is one of the sport’s more celebrated postseason performers.
Cleveland trails the Chicago White Sox by three games in the Central Division, but sits only one game behind Baltimore in the race for the final AL wild-card berth.
“Every game that we’ve played, we’ve felt like we had a chance to win,” Damon said. “Our whole goal is to try and win the division. If Chicago keeps playing the way they are, obviously it’s going to be tough, but we believe in our team.
“Choo has definitely lived up to what’s expected of him, as have Kipnis, Cabrera and Brantley. It’s up to the rest of us to take their lead and go with it.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.