November 23, 2014

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General manager Chris Antonetti says Indians’ trade-deadline role still to be determined

BALTIMORE — The July 31 trading deadline is more than a month away, but that’s not too early for General Manager Chris Antonetti to begin plotting a strategy for the Indians.

To this point in the season, there’s no indication the Indians will be a seller and rid themselves of salaries. The club has consistently remained just a few games behind the Detroit Tigers, who lead the Central Division.

Obviously, the Indians’ position relative to the division race could change radically in a month, but that would seem to go against the odds.

On the other hand, not long ago the Indians spent a fitful three weeks playing first- and second-place clubs almost exclusively and posted a 6-16 record.

“That was a combination of two things,” Antonetti said. “We were playing very good teams, and we weren’t playing our best baseball. There also were a couple of guys who were hurt during that stretch.”

Midseason trades are seldom the result of decisions made on the spur of the moment.

“It’s a process,” Antonetti said. “We have to define what our needs are. And the first thing we need to do is get our players back healthy and then see where we are.”

Usually, it isn’t difficult to figure out what holes a team has to fill. But in the Indians’ case, the surprising improvement of the rotation — usually a crying need — isn’t necessarily where Antonetti will look to upgrade the roster.

The back end of the bullpen, thought at the outset of the season to be the strongest part of the team, has struggled.

Closer Chris Perez, expected to be activated from the disabled list in a day or three, has been fighting a shoulder injury. Setup man Vinnie Pestano, after sitting out a couple of weeks with a sore elbow, has returned but his effectiveness has been spotty.

Asked if he thought both were healthy now, Antonetti said, “From a health standpoint they’re fine. It’s a matter of regaining their command.”

Perez also has a misdemeanor charge of marijuana use hanging over his head, which might cause the fans to react negatively when he returns.

“No,” Antonetti said. “What it really comes down to is getting back to his routine and getting batters out.”