CLEVELAND — The Indians were pleased with Roberto Hernandez’s first bullpen session back in America on Monday. The next step is a minor league rehab assignment that is expected to begin Thursday.
“It was very smooth,” manager Manny Acta said of Hernandez’s 30-pitch bullpen session at Progressive Field. “He threw the ball pretty good. Granted, it was just a bullpen, but it was nice to see. Everybody who was over there was pretty happy. It does look like he’s been pitching.”
According to the Indians, Hernandez kept in pitching shape by throwing bullpens, simulated games and to prospects in the Dominican Republic, while he awaited a visa after his arrest and release on false identity charges.
The Indians have yet to announce where Hernandez’s first rehab outing will take place, but Single-A affiliates Lake County and Mahoning Valley are the likely choices. Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron also play at home Thursday.
Hernandez is currently serving a three-week suspension from Major League Baseball and can’t pitch for the Indians until Aug. 11.
The Giants are reportedly interested in acquiring the service of Indians closer Chris Perez. San Francisco lost closer Brian Wilson to an elbow injury during the first month of the season and his replacement, Santiago Casilla, has struggled as of late.
Perez told reporters he had no comment and had not seen the reports.
Grady Sizemore told reporters Monday that he has endured a number of setbacks during his rehabilitation from lower-back surgery, and that the biggest obstacle to his return has been his inability to run at full speed.
Sizemore was eligible to leave the disabled list June 3, and still believes he will play this season.
“I think I’ll play. It’s just a matter of when,” he said.
With his team in the midst of one of its worst stretches of the season, Acta was asked if the Indians were on the verge of switching their focus from Central Division title to wild-card berth.
“We have way too many games to go to start changing goals,” said Acta, whose third-place team entered Monday 4 1/2 games behind the front-running Tigers. “I won’t even mention wild card. How dare anybody talk about a wild card when you’re four or five games out with 60 games to go. My goal is to win the division.”
Acta refuted outfielder Shelley Duncan’s claim that Monday’s series finale with Baltimore was the biggest game of the season for the Indians.
“Every day is a big game,” Acta said. “I think he’s exaggerating a little bit, especially for a guy that’s not playing (Monday). You should feel that urgency every day.”
Acta has drawn criticism this season for his unwillingness to bunt. The Indians entered Monday with the fewest sacrifice bunts in the majors (7), compared to 48 for big league leaders Los Angeles (Dodgers) and Milwaukee. The Angels led the American League with 27 through Sunday.
“The team’s that bunt are usually the team’s that are stacked, that can afford to be giving outs (away),” Acta said. “I don’t think we’re in that position right now to be giving outs (away). I pick and choose when I bunt. I bunt when I think it’s really going to make a difference and help us win the game.
“I’m not a big fan of giving outs away. Let’s put it that way.”
The Indians wrap up the homestand with a three-game series against Central Division-leading Detroit, which begins tonight at 7:05.
Ubaldo Jimenez (8-9, 5.24 ERA) opens the set, opposing RHP Doug Fister (4-6, 4.04), while Derek Lowe (8-8, 5.04) goes for Cleveland on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.) against RHP Max Scherzer (9-5, 4.61).
Zach McAllister (4-2, 3.21) pitches the series finale Thursday (7:05 p.m.), while the Tigers counter with RHP Justin Verlander (11-5, 2.42).
The Indians entered the season on a 10-game losing skid against Detroit, but have won five of six meetings this year.
The Indians entered Monday with a 10-18 record against AL East opponents. … Carlos Santana recorded the ninth three-hit game of his career Sunday. Santana has homered in seven of the nine games. … Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM.
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