CLEVELAND — A sore left shoulder kept Nick Swisher out of the lineup for the Indians’ first interleague game Tuesday and he likely won’t return until the series opener with Minnesota on Friday.
“His left shoulder has been nagging at him a little bit,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve been playing the heck out of him.”
Swisher started all 23 of Cleveland’s games through Monday — 12 at first base, six in right field and five at designated hitter. Due to an injury to center fielder Michael Bourn, Swisher has bounced back and forth between first and right field recently and Francona thinks it has played a part in the injury.
“That’s why I hesitated at times to do it,” he said.
Francona also said he thought the sore shoulder has affected the swing of Swisher, who is batting .265 with two home runs and nine RBIs — 4-for-28 over his last seven games.
(bullet) Francona expects Bourn (right index finger laceration) to begin escalating his baseball activities. He confirmed that Bourn, who was eligible to leave the disabled list Tuesday, would make a minor-league rehab assignment before being activated.
Francona bristled a bit before offering up this response when asked what kind of club he thought he had:
“When we pitch well we look like a very crisp team,” he said. “I think almost every team in the league can say that. There’s been times we haven’t pitched well, starting pitching. (We have a) very strong bullpen … I think we’re probably one of the few teams that when we get to the bullpen earlier than you would like we still have a chance to win because we’re pretty deep down there. (We have) team speed, catch the ball for most part and get to a lot of balls, and we have the ability to strike out.”
Phillies LHP Cliff Lee experienced the best and worst of times during his tenure in Cleveland (2002-09). Lee, who will start against the Indians tonight for the first time since his trade to Philadelphia, was demoted to the minors in 2007, then came back to win the Cy Young award the following year with a 22-3 record and 2.54 ERA.
“I would like to think there’s more highs than lows,” said Lee, who has become one of the majors’ elite starters. “I definitely had a bad year in ’07. Yeah, it was definitely the lowest and the highest in my career from one year to the next.”
Lee was rewarded for his Cy Young season by getting traded to the Phillies during the following year, with Cleveland unwilling to pick up a $7 million option for 2010.
“I don’t know, it’s definitely the nature of the business,” said Lee, when asked if he was surprised by the trade. “I had seen what they had done the year before when they traded away Casey Blake and CC (Sabathia) and a few of the other guys. Knowing that, it wasn’t a huge surprise.”
When he looks back on his time with the Indians, it was the games he didn’t pitch in that stand out. He was left off the postseason roster in 2007, the same year Cleveland lost the ALCS to Boston after owning a 3-1 series lead.
“The games that I remember are the ones I didn’t get a chance to pitch in, the postseason when I had to sit there and watch when we were up 3-1 against the Red Sox,” Lee said. “I feel like I would have liked to have one shot in those games. I didn’t, and we lost them all.
“I’m not saying I would have won or whatever, but I definitely look back and that was some motivation for me too, ’07. Knowing that it went down that way, it was kind of motivation for me to turn it around, and fortunately I did.”
Double-A Akron 1B/DH Chun Chen was named Eastern League player of the week (April 22-28). The native of Taiwan, a non-drafted free-agent acquisition in 2007, went 8-for-17 with six RBIs over a five-game span. … High A RHP Jordan Cooper was named Carolina League pitcher of the week (April 22-29). The ninth-round draft pick in 2010 made one start, tossing eight shutout innings, while allowing just three hits and striking out a season-high eight batters.
The Indians entered Tuesday with an all-time 137-146 record in interleague play (74-66 at Jacobs/Progressive Field). Through Monday, they were 12-6 against National League opponents since the start of 2011. … Former Indian Shelley Duncan was designated for assignment by the Rays. He hit .182 with two homers and six RBIs in 20 games for Tampa Bay. … Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WMMS 100.7-FM. Bauer (0-1, 5.40) vs. Lee (2-1, 3.03).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.