Issues remain for Peralta, Wedge
Cleveland (30-43) at Pittsburgh (32-39), 7:05 p.m. ET
PITTSBURGH -- When the Indians wrap up their three-game set with the Pirates on Thursday night, you can expect to see Jhonny Peralta in the lineup and at third base -- a position that has become his home, albeit begrudgingly.
Peralta hopes you'll see the stronger offensive approach he's shown of late. His homer on Tuesday night was his second in three games after going deep just twice in the previous two and a half months.But what you won't see is the behind-the-scenes frustration that is playing out now and has played out often between Peralta and manager Eric Wedge over the last few years. Wedge has called Peralta out publicly multiple times since 2006, and he did it again last week. Upset with Peralta's lack of consistency on both sides of the ball, Wedge said, "He's got to get his head straight. Jhonny's not a baby anymore. He's been up here five or six years. He's going to have to figure it out." Peralta entered Wednesday's action batting .259 with just the four homers, 18 extra-base hits and a .714 OPS. Those numbers are enough to draw the ire of a manager who expected Peralta to be a key contributor in the middle of the lineup this season. But Peralta said he is perplexed as to why Wedge implied that he doesn't play hard. Peralta heard the message through the media, and he heard it from Wedge himself in a closed-door meeting that preceded the public tongue-lashing. "I say to him, 'You can say that I don't play hard or whatever, but I'm the same guy every time,'" Peralta said. "Whether I play good or bad, I play the same. You can't say I don't play hard, because I try to do my best every time. Sometimes things don't [go your way], and that's baseball. "Every year, [Wedge and I] have the same problem. I don't know why. I try to do my job." It appears the crux of the matter boils down to Peralta's move from shortstop to third base. Though Peralta has made it a point to say he understands the organization's philosophy that his big body is best-suited for third base in the long term, he also makes it clear he doesn't feel that move should have taken place in the midst of this season. The Indians spent all winter praising Peralta's shortstop play, despite his obvious struggles with range. The company line was that Peralta makes the routine plays at the position as much, if not more, than any other shortstop in the game. And when the Indians acquired Mark DeRosa from the Cubs, they moved him from second base to third so that Peralta could remain at short and Asdrubal Cabrera could remain at second. Less than two months into the season, plans changed. Peralta was at third and Cabrera at short, with DeRosa bouncing around the field. And Peralta has continued to spend the bulk of his time at third, even with Cabrera on the disabled list. "They changed everything fast," Peralta said. "In Spring Training, they said I was going to play short. They said maybe I could play third base some, but not every day. "I was fine at shortstop. I didn't do too bad. [The move] doesn't make me mad. Maybe it's good for my future to play third base. But right now I feel like I could play short." Peralta, who is signed by the Tribe through 2010 with an option for 2011, went so far as to say he could play shortstop for another team. "I think that someday I could go to a different team and maybe have a chance to play short," he said. Wedge's public critique of Peralta hinted that he wasn't happy with Peralta's dedication to the new position. "He's a good player when he really commits," Wedge said. In the past week, Peralta has improved on the offensive and defensive fronts, and Wedge has taken notice. He even made it a point to praise Peralta after Wednesday's game. "Jhonny Peralta's definitely heading in the right direction," Wedge said. "He looks better and better at third base, and he's swinging the bat very well." Maybe that will appease some of the frustration Peralta was feeling before the game, when he said he was somewhat miffed over Wedge's recent public critique of his play. "It makes me a little bit mad sometimes," Peralta said. "But it's his decision. He's the manager, and he can say whatever. But I try to do my best." Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (4-6, 2.94 ERA)
Lee finally received the run support he has craved all season, but still could not earn a victory as the Indians collapsed down the stretch in an 8-7 defeat in 10 innings against the Cubs. Lee lasted seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five and walking three. He left with nobody out and one man on in the eighth inning with a 7-2 lead that the bullpen was unable to hold. Lee, who entered Friday's game with the seventh-best ERA in the American League at 2.88, had been receiving some of the worst run support in the league. The 4.73 runs he has received per start is ranked second-worst out of 49 pitchers in the AL with at least 60 innings pitched this season. Lee has never faced the Pirates in his eight-year career. PIT: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (6-6, 4.94 ERA)
Ohlendorf had flat pitches and left the ball up in his last start. It cost him. Ohlendorf served up two home runs as part of a six-run, nine-hit, five-inning outing against the Rockies at Coors Field. Ohlendorf picked up his third loss in four decisions after winning five of six. Ohlendorf is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two relief appearances against the Indians. Tidbits
First baseman Ryan Garko, who has been nursing a sprained left wrist, was available off the bench Wednesday. He remained out of the starting lineup, as Wedge opted to stick with the Kelly Shoppach-Carl Pavano tandem. ... Three more First-Year Player Draft picks have signed with the Tribe. They are: outfielder Jordan Henry (seventh round, University of Mississippi), infielder Casey Frawley (17th round, Stetson) and infielder Greg Folgia (40th round, Missouri Columbia). ... Three Tribe farmhands played in Tuesday's Class A Carolina/California League All-Star Game. Lonnie Chisenhall went 1-for-3, Cord Phelps went 0-for-2 with Carolina's only RBI and left-hander Eric Berger threw a scoreless inning. Also of note, Chisenhall won the Home Run Derby before the game, beating five other participants. Tickets
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Friday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-5, 5.95) vs. Reds (Aaron Harang, 5-7, 3.66), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Indians (Tomo Ohka, 0-1, 4.70) vs. Reds (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Indians (David Huff, 3-2, 5.71) vs. Reds (Micah Owings, 4-8, 4.87), 1:05 p.m. ET
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.