Notes: Back to basics for Tribe lineup
Manager Wedge settles on familiar roles for sluggers
KANSAS CITY -- During the 2006 season and throughout the first half of 2007, the Indians often assembled a familiar alignment at the top of the order. Grady Sizemore batted leadoff, Travis Hafner hit third and Victor Martinez was in the cleanup spot.
Those hitters helped the Indians produce 870 runs last season, a total that ranked second to the Yankees in the American League. This year, Cleveland scored 471 first-half runs, trailing only the Tigers in that statistic.
After experimenting with several different lineups over the past few weeks, Indians manager Eric Wedge reverted to his usual batting order in an attempt to remedy an offense that ranks 13th in the American League in runs scored in the second half.
"We want to get back to where we were," Wedge said. "We scored a lot of runs last year, and we scored a lot of runs in the first half. We are going to settle on that for a while, and let our guys lead the way."
Asked if he were going to stay with the lineup for a few days, Wedge said, "Longer than that."
Asdrubal Cabrera, batting .324 in his rookie season (11-for-34), saw his first Major League start in the No. 2 hole, a spot usually occupied by Casey Blake. Cabrera, who had usually batted ninth this season, will likely remain in the No. 2 spot.
"He is just coming out here and just playing, and he has been doing a good job," Wedge said.
Kenny Lofton, who had seen several starts in the leadoff spot recently, was bumped to seventh for the third time since rejoining the Indians. Blake hit ninth for the first time this season. The new lineup worked early on Saturday, as Cleveland scored five first-inning runs off Royals starter Kyle Davies.
"We are at the point now that we just have to go out there and do it," Wedge said of the offensive struggles. "We just have to have the confidence and believe in each other."
Rotation terrific: Although Cleveland's offense has produced little in recent weeks, the starting rotation has helped the Indians maintain their lead in the American League Central. The starters have worked five innings or more in 112 of 127 games, and rank first in innings pitched (799).
In the last five games, the starters have thrown two complete games in losing efforts, pitched four games of eight innings apiece, and fashioned a 2.89 ERA.
"Our starting rotation has really been doing a great job," Wedge said. "They have been going about their business, and focused, and have controlled what they can control, and they have been very consistent."
C.C. Sabathia, the Major League leader in innings pitched, has helped anchor the staff. Sabathia has eight straight quality starts, including a complete-game loss on Friday night. However, lack of run support has left Sabathia with just a 2-4 record in the second half. But, the All-Star left-hander hasn't complained and hasn't been frustrated by the offensive problems.
It's an attitude that's been reflected in the rest of the rotation.
"He is a leader by the way he handles things," Wedge said. "It's not just this year. He has been in this boat for awhile now. I felt like the middle of '05 was when he was really at the point to where you see him now. He is just very consistent with his personality, and very consistent with toughness, and, obviously, he is a very consistent pitcher.
"Everyone is going to watch and see how he reacts to things. That is part of being a leader. I love what he says. He means it. The only thing that he looks at is [whether] his team [has] a chance to win when he pitches," the manager added.
Mujica optioned: The Indians announced after Friday's loss that Edward Mujica was sent to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for starter Aaron Laffey. Laffey pitched on Saturday night against the Royals.
The move could have been a position player, but Wedge felt a reliever was more expendable.
"We are using all of our position players for the most part, and with all of the pinch-running and pinch-hitting that we are doing ..."
Tribe tidbits: Wedge said David Dellucci (left hamstring) has not started hitting and running yet: "He is moving a little slower than we thought," Wedge said. ... Wedge said the Indians have no interest in picking up Bob Wickman, who was released by the Braves: "I don't think so." ... Sabathia said Friday night the Indians have hadn't a stretch where they have really played well, a sentiment that Wedge echoed Saturday: "I think it is the calm before the storm. I think they are going to take off. We are not where we want to be just yet, but they are working towards it, and we have enough time to get on a roll," Wedge said. ... The Indians' game against the Angels on Sept. 9 has been changed from a 3:35 p.m. ET starting time to 8:05 p.m. for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Mills promoted: No. 1 Draft pick Beau Mills has been promoted to Class A Kinston. Mills went 2-for-4 with a double, homer and three RBIs on Friday night in his first game for the Indians. Mills, the No. 13 overall pick, hit .271 with five homers for Lake County. This is his third team this season.
Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo lost, 7-4, to Pawtucket. Adam Miller (4-4, 5.14 ERA) allowed four runs (two earned) in 1 1/3 innings and suffered the defeat. ... Class A Lake County won, 9-4, over Delmarva. Brian Juhl and Nicholas Weglarz both hit homers in the win.
On deck: Fresh off a complete-game loss, Fausto Carmona (14-8, 3.11 ERA) faces ace Gil Meche (7-11, 3.88 ERA) in a matchup of two of the better pitchers in the AL Central. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. CT.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.