Notes: Michaels continues hot hitting
Outfielder stepping up as a starter with Dellucci out with injury
CLEVELAND -- His platoon mate went down, and Jason Michaels has stepped up.From the time David Dellucci strained his hamstring running out a grounder on June 19, Michaels has hit .435 (10-for-23), extending his hitting streak to 10 games. Entering Thursday's day game against the A's, in which he batted in the No. 2 spot of the lineup against a right-handed starter for the first time this season, Michaels had notched an RBI in seven of his last 10 games. Talk about making the most of an opportunity. But Michaels doesn't necessarily view it that way. "To be honest, I'm not trying to make the most of [Dellucci's absence]," Michaels said. "We have an opportunity to win some games and really do something here. Here we are in the thick of the season, and it's really been fun. I just want to win. I've been close [to the playoffs] before. I've sniffed it. But I've never gotten there." For the Indians to get there, they'll likely need more consistent production from their corner outfield spots. Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez, who has seen most of his time filling in for the struggling Trot Nixon in right, have held up their end of the bargain of late. The production the Indians have received from Michaels in this first half is a drastic improvement over the numbers that he put up in '06 -- his first season with the club and his first as an everyday left fielder. Brought in to shore up the two hole, Michaels saw his on-base percentage drop from the .399 mark he had with the Phillies in '05 to a less-than-stellar .326. This year, that mark, which Michaels puts more stock into than any other, sits at .354. "I'm not a guy who's going to hit all the home runs," he said. "I want to have a lot of runs scored. I want to be on base to potentially score that run." Since May 12, Michaels has hit .353, driving in 14 runs and scoring 16. His average has risen from .262 to .303 in the process. Michaels credits his improvement at the plate this season to his familiarity with his surroundings. "There were a lot of unknowns I had last year," he said. "It was a new team and my first time in this league. This year, I'm just more comfortable with my teammates and I understand the role." Here's the question: In the Tribe's history, two pitchers have won 15 consecutive games in a season. Can you name them? Going long: Whenever a starter converts to a reliever, the obvious question that arises is: How fast can he get hot? Jason Stanford, in his debut as the Indians' long man Wednesday night, provided his answer -- eight pitches. "It didn't take me long at all," Stanford said. "When you sit for a full week, you have the juices flowing already." Stanford hadn't pitched since his start against the Phillies on June 19, when he was summoned to take over for a struggling Fausto Carmona against the A's. He gave up three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. Most importantly, he kept manager Eric Wedge from having to exhaust his bullpen. "Now, it's a learning process," Stanford said of his new role. "It's different coming out there [with runners on] and pitching out of the stretch right away, as opposed to pitching out of the windup. It's a matter of learning the ropes and that you don't have to be amped up and geared up."
He's gone: The Indians didn't find a taker for Roberto Hernandez, who was designated for assignment last week, so the reliever was given his unconditional release on Thursday.
That means the club will be eating what remains of Hernandez's one-year, $3.5 million contract. It was said at the time he was designated that he wouldn't be sent to the Minors. Hernandez had a 6.23 ERA in 26 innings of work this season.
Change in plans? Closer Joe Borowski's vacation plans are like those of any other American. He wants to spend four days in New Jersey. OK, so maybe that's not the prime vacation destination in the United States. But it's Borowski's home state, and it's where he'd like to unwind midseason. But given that his 21 saves rank second in the AL only to the 22 put up by J.J. Putz of the Mariners and Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels, Borowski has to be considered a contender for an All-Star berth. Tigers manager Jim Leyland's selections of reserves and pitchers will be announced Sunday. "I don't expect it at all," Borowski said. "It's an afterthought to me. If it happens, it happens. If not, I've got four days of vacation in New Jersey." Tribe tidbits: Dellucci was scheduled to have surgery to remove a tendon from his injured hamstring Thursday. He is still expected to make a full recovery from the injury in about seven weeks. ... Oakland designated hitter Jack Cust was a journeyman Minor Leaguer before this season, in which the Indians have made him look like the second coming of Babe Ruth. Cust entered Thursday batting .391 (9-for-23) with five homers and 15 RBIs in six games against the Tribe this season. ... The Indians have signed 47th-round pick Kevin Rucker, an outfielder from Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria, Calif., to a Minor League deal. Down on the farm: Beau Mills, the Tribe's No. 1 draft pick this year, has moved up from short-season Mahoning Valley to Class A Lake County. Mills went 5-for-28 at the plate in eight games with the Scrappers. ... Triple-A Buffalo was rained out Wednesday. ... Double-A Akron got a strong start from Reid Santos, who gave up a run on five hits in five innings, en route to a 7-1 win over Binghamton. Designated hitter Jordan Brown homered and drove in three runs. ... Kevin Dixon gave up just two runs (one earned) on three hits in 5 2/3 innings in Class A Kinston's 3-2 win over Frederick. ... Infielder Matt Whitney, a first-round sandwich pick in 2002, has been promoted from Lake County to Kinston. And the answer is: Johnny Allen won 15 straight in 1937 and Gaylord Perry won 15 straight in 1974. On deck: The Indians' eight-game homestand continues at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday, when they open a four-game set with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-3, 7.08 ERA) will get the start opposite right-hander Edwin Jackson (1-8, 7.39 ERA).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.