July 29, 2014

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Indians notes: Tribe’s defense deplorable to start season

Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall throws to first on a ground ball by Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez Monday. Chisenhall's throw was wide and Perez went to second on the throwing error. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall throws to first on a ground ball by Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Perez Monday. Chisenhall’s throw was wide and Perez went to second on the throwing error. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

CLEVELAND — The last-place Indians were in first place in a dubious category over their first 20 games, entering Wednesday with the lowest fielding percentage (.972) and the highest error count in the American League.

“I think as a team we have not played very good defense yet,” said manager Terry Francona, whose club entered Wednesday ranked second-to-last in the majors, defensively, behind Washington. “I think we will be better. I think we need to be better. We’re that type of team where when we play clean baseball, we generally give ourselves a chance to win. When we don’t and give a team extra outs or even extra opportunities, it certainly makes it tougher.”

Surprisingly, catcher Yan Gomes leads Cleveland with six errors. He led the AL in the category overall and all big-league catchers through Tuesday.

“He’s kind of been a little too quick with his feet, and he’s left a couple balls short and a couple balls up a little high (on throws),” Francona said. “Saying that, he’s 5-for-13 throwing runners out. He throws guys out. He’s quick. People don’t run on him very much.

“But like the rest of our team, he’s made some errors, some missteps that normally he won’t do.”

Not the problem

Francona dismissed the notion that struggling right-hander Danny Salazar was tipping his pitches. Salazar said it was a possibility, following his subpar start Tuesday in an 8-2 loss to the Royals.

“I was surprised he said that. He’s not,” Francona said. “There were some instances last year in spring training that we kind of addressed to him, but no, we really keep an eye on stuff like that.”

Those in the organization believe the 24-year-old Salazar’s struggles can be traced to his youth and inexperience.

“It’s growing pains. This is his first real go-around,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. “We have the utmost trust in him. He has plus stuff. When he figures it out, it’s going to be a lot of fun to be on his side. He’s a young cat. He’s going to figure it out.”

Bottom heavy

It was pointed out to Francona that Cleveland’s No. 9 hitter — mostly Lonnie Chisenhall — was leading the majors among batters at that spot in the order.

“I wish one through nine were leading (the majors),” he joked. “I’m not sure what to make of that. On the flip side, the next question could be, ‘Well, your four hitter’s (Carlos Santana) the lowest in the (majors)?’”

Santana entered Wednesday batting .136 over 19 games.

Old school

Wrigley Field, one of the few remaining storied ballparks in America, celebrated its 100th anniversary Wednesday.

“It’s almost like, if you like going to church, it’s like going to St. Peter’s,” Francona said. “It’s Wrigley, Fenway (Park). It’s the was  baseball, I think, is supposed to be. And I think it’s what so many places have done such a good job of — Pittsburgh, San Francisco, (Baltimore’s) Camden (Yards), our ballpark. It has that (traditional) feel a little bit, but you have the updated amenities. It’s a fun place to go to a game. It’s a fun to place to be part of a game.”

Minor details

  • Trevor Bauer improved to 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday, allowing a run on six hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings of the Clippers’ 11-1 win over Gwinnett.
  •  Outfielder Nyjer Morgan went 2-for-5, with two runs, a double and two RBIs and entered Wednesday batting .158 (3-for-19) in six games for Columbus.
  • Double-A Akron center fielder Tyler Naquin went 2-for-4 with two triples Tuesday in a 4-3 loss at Trenton. Naquin, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick (15th overall) entered Wednesday batting .219 with two RBIs in 17 games and 24 strikeouts in 64 at-bats.

Roundin’ third

  • The Indians and Tigers will make up their postponed game April 15 in Detroit as part of a day-night doubleheader July 19 at Comerica Park (1:08 p.m., 7:08 p.m.).
  • The Indians entered Wednesday having lost five of their last seven meetings with the Royals dating back to 2013.
  • Today, 12:05, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM. Kluber (1-2, 5.40) vs. Chen (1-1, 6.60).

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

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