KANSAS CITY -- Hector Rondon, one of the top pitching prospects in the Indians' system, is headed to the disabled list at Triple-A Columbus with right forearm tightness.

The Indians, however, said the injury is not serious and that Rondon should only miss one or two turns through the rotation.

Still, the injury is another unwelcome development in what has been a rough season for Rondon, a 22-year-old Venezuelan with good life on his fastball but still-developing offspeed and breaking pitches. He is 1-3 with an 8.53 ERA in seven starts. Most alarmingly, he has allowed 12 homers in 31 2/3 innings.

Acta puts youngsters back in lineup

KANSAS CITY -- Austin Kearns, Russell Branyan and Mark Grudzielanek are playing well, but they are not considered part of the Indians' long-term future.

Matt LaPorta and Luis Valbuena could be a part of that future, but they're not playing well.

In a season geared toward player development, manager Manny Acta must weigh the benefits of playing the hotter hands or the younger ones on a daily basis. For Thursday's series finale against the Royals, he sided with youth, as Valbuena and LaPorta were both in the lineup for the first time in four games. Kearns was in left, but Grudzielanek and Branyan, who homered three times in the first two games of the series, were on the bench for the day game after a night game.

"It's tough because you want to win [now]," Acta said, "but you also can't lose the focus, which is to build a team that's going to be here for years to come."

Acta made it clear he still views the struggling Valbuena as his primary second baseman, even though Grudzielanek is hitting .290 and has 17 hits in his last 51 at-bats. LaPorta's playing time in left field and at first base is squeezed because of the presence of Kearns and Branyan, and he'll continue to work more behind the scenes on this road trip.

"We can't lose track of the big picture," Acta said. "We're trying to find other players to go along with Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo for the long ride. We're still trying to develop these guys."

LaPorta gets time to think about struggles

KANSAS CITY -- The struggling Matt LaPorta is getting time off on this road trip to clear his mind.

"Sometimes you want to be able to go out and be able to fix it [on the field]," LaPorta said. "But you have to reflect and realize one game is not going to fix everything. You've got to string it together game after game."

LaPorta, batting .203 with a .492 OPS, hasn't done that yet this season, and his playing time hasn't been strung together as a result. His start Thursday against the Royals was just his fifth of the month.

That's not what anybody expected this season of the prized acquisition in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. LaPorta, who had October surgeries on his hip and left big toe, said he is physically ready to compete on a daily basis, but he can't put his finger on his problems at the plate.

"I've struggled production-wise," he said. "I don't know why. It just happens, I guess."

Worth noting

Entering Thursday, Austin Kearns' .341 average would have ranked fifth in the AL, but he does not qualify because of his total number of plate appearances. ... Tony Sipp has now gone 10 innings without allowing an earned run. He has struck out nine and walked four in that span. ... The Indians' pitching staff entered Thursday having not allowed a home run in 36 innings of work.