CLEVELAND — All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera started for the first time in five games Saturday after receiving a cortisone injection to his ailing right wrist the day before.
Cabrera has played sparingly over the last week, with manager Manny Acta indicating when the month began that he would not be in the lineup on an every-day basis over the remainder of the regular season.
Similar to last season, Cabrera has faded in the second half, batting just .239 (48-for-201) with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 53 games to lower his season average to .267. He went 1-for-4 Saturday, striking out in his first three at-bats.
In other injury news:
(bullet) Center fielder Michael Brantley (strained pectoral) was out of the lineup for the second straight game, but did pinch hit in the ninth, flying to center for the final out. He is expected to start in the series finale today.
(bullet) Designated hitter Travis Hafner (lower back) took batting practice and ran the bases Saturday.
“He took BP and felt good,” Acta said. “There’s no timetable for him, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Hafner, who has been sidelined since Aug. 6, told reporters this week that he expected to return before the season was complete.
Always next year
Acta said the key to success in 2013 comes down to an improved performance from the starting rotation, not just more effective work from the bullpen.
“When people say you win with pitching and defense, it doesn’t mean bullpen and defense,” Acta said. “The part of the pitching that has been consistent for us has been the back of the bullpen.
“We need starting pitching. We need these guys to step up and get it done for us. We got away with it for a while with the run differential, but it will catch up to you, and it did.”
The rotation was supposed to be a strength for Cleveland, which entered Saturday ranked 28th in the majors in starting pitching ERA (5.29) — second-to-last in the American League in front of Minnesota.
“We expected more than what we got,” Acta said. “We did the same thing with our offense. You can project all you want but you can’t predict anything. The only two things that have been consistent all year has been our defense and the back end of the bullpen.”
X-rays performed on Jason Donald’s right wrist Friday night were negative.
Donald is listed as day-to-day after being hit by a Justin Verlander pitch and leaving the game in the seventh inning of the series opener with Detroit.
Double-A Akron failed to clinch its Eastern League Championship Series on Friday, losing 11-7 to Trenton. Rehabbing right-hander Carlos Carrasco started for the Aeros and allowed four runs on four hits over two innings.
It was the first loss in six postseason games for the Aeros, who led Trenton 2-1, with Game 4 slated for Saturday night. … Class A Lake County was eliminated from the Midwest League semifinals Friday, dropping Game 4 against Fort Wayne, 13-6.
Of the 17 meetings between Cleveland and Detroit this season, 12 have been decided by two runs or fewer. … The Indians’ 16 remaining games all come against Central Division opponents. … Today, 3:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM. Jimenez (9-16, 5.52) vs. Porcello (9-12, 4.59).
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