December 20, 2014

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Indians notes: Manager Terry Francona not ready to make changes to batting order

Cleveland Indians' Michael Bourn reacts after striking out against Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Sergio Santos Friday in Cleveland. The Blue Jays defeated the Indians 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Indians’ Michael Bourn reacts after striking out against Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Sergio Santos Friday in Cleveland. The Blue Jays defeated the Indians 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Manager Terry Francona is aware that his batting order has struggled to produce over the majority of the Indians’ first 18 games. But he doesn’t think it’s time to shake it up.

“I don’t not change it because I’m not paying attention,” Francona said before Cleveland’s series finale with Toronto on Sunday. “I just think that when you believe in guys, you have to be patient. I think sometimes maybe I am to a fault. I don’t want to be. I just think it’s the best way to get the most out of our guys.”

Much of the struggles have come from the top of the order, where leadoff man Michael Bourn (.118 in four games) has started slowly since leaving the disabled list, and No. 2 hitter Nick Swisher is hitting just .181 (13-for-72).

Third hitter Jason Kipnis is batting .230 (14-for-61), and Carlos Santana (.145 with a home run and three RBIs in 18 games) has been brutal in the cleanup spot.

“The top of the order that’s struggling right now, they’re going to hit,” Francona said. “I know they’re going to hit. They know they’re going to hit. We just need to be patient.”

David Murphy, one of the few Indians players off to a good start offensively, agrees with his manager’s approach.

“I’ve talked a few times since the beginning of the season about how we’re not really clicking on all cylinders,” Murphy said. “We know we’re going to at some point. We have that sense of urgency to get to the point where we’re clicking on all cylinders.”

Smooth operator
While those around him continue to scuffle, Michael Brantley has picked up the slack, hitting .284 with a team-high 16 RBIs in 18 games. He and Murphy have accounted for 31 of Cleveland’s 73 RBIs.

“He’s so fun to watch on a daily basis,” Murphy said of Brantley. “He’s Mr. Consistent. He’s definitely a guy who is undervalued in the game of baseball. I just love the way he takes such a consistent approach. He takes the same approach up there every single at-bat. He never gets away from himself. That’s why at the end of the day, the results are always very consistent as well.”

Next up
The Indians complete the homestand with a four-game series against Central Division rival Kansas City that begins tonight at 7:05.

Zach McAllister (2-0, 2.04 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 4.34), while Danny Salazar (0-2, 7.71) goes for the Indians on Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) against righty James Shields (1-2, 2.00).

Justin Masterson (0-0, 4.98) starts for Cleveland on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.) against left-hander Jason Vargas (2-0, 1.24), while Corey Kluber (1-2, 5.40) pitches the series finale Thursday (12:05 p.m.) against lefty Bruce Chen (1-1, 6.60).

Minor details
Triple-A Columbus 1B/DH Jesus Aguilar continued his hot start to the season Saturday, hitting his fourth homer and going 2-for-4 with two RBIs in a 7-6 loss to Toledo. Aguilar, 23, entered Sunday leading the Clippers in homers, batting average (.370), hits (20) and RBIs (12).

** Double-A Akron third baseman Giovanny Urshela hit his third homer in a 3-1 win at Bowie on Saturday. Urshela, a non-drafted free-agent acquisition in 2008, was hitting .309 with a team-leading 12 RBIs in 15 games.

** Aeros backup catcher Alex Lavisky, a St. Edward graduate, entered Sunday batting .333 (4-for-12) with two homers and three RBIs in four games.

** Last year’s first-round draft choice (fifth overall), center fielder Clint Frazier, went 2-for-4 with the lone RBI in Class A Lake County’s 6-1 loss to Burlington on Saturday. Frazier had played in three games through Saturday — 4-for-14, double, three RBIs — after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Roundin’ third

  • The Indians are expected to activate veteran designated hitter Jason Giambi from the disabled list today.
  • Cleveland’s bullpen has posted a 2.76 ERA over the first 18 games.
  • Sunday marked the first time the Indians have won a game scoring six runs on just five hits since Aug. 12, 2006, against Kansas City.
  • The Indians are 1-6 when facing a left-handed starting pitcher.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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