PHILADELPHIA -- The Indians are in a precarious position with closer Kerry Wood. He has not performed well enough to be considered trade bait, and, in a season increasingly geared toward player development, the Indians are paying him $10.5 million to fill a role he certainly won't be filling next year.
But manager Manny Acta is sticking with Wood as his closer, despite the veteran's inconsistent performance (5-for-8 in save situations) and the growth another closing stint would provide youngster Chris Perez. Perez will undoubtedly slide into the closer role in 2011. He already filled the role earlier this season, when Wood was on the DL. In fact, Perez still holds the team lead in saves, having converted six of his nine opportunities.
Acta, though, isn't shaking things up in the ninth yet.
"At some point, [Perez] is going to have that opportunity here, but we haven't gotten to it yet," Acta said.
Acta didn't want to put too much stock into Wood's blown save against the Phillies on Wednesday night, or his blown save against the Red Sox on June 10.
"He saved a game in Pittsburgh [last weekend], and we were happy about that," Acta said. "These things get out of hand when you're talking about three or four blown saves in a week."
Wood hasn't had that kind of week, primarily because he hasn't had those kinds of opportunities. Still, he has a 7.98 ERA in 17 appearances this season, so he's not exactly been a shutdown arm, regardless of scenario.
Perez, on the other hand, has been the most consistent arm in an erratic bullpen. He has a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings over 28 appearances.
"We like Perez [as a setup man] because he can pitch multiple innings for us," Acta said. "That's something that's very valuable."
Mistake by Branyan led to run on Wednesday
PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins' game-winning shot off Indians closer Kerry Wood was the defining moment in Wednesday's loss to the Phillies. But Tribe manager Manny Acta remembered a moment much earlier in the game that he felt was just as important.In the first inning, the Phillies got a run off Jake Westbrook when Ryan Howard hit into a 3-6 double play with two on and one out. First baseman Russell Branyan fielded the ball and stepped on the bag, taking away the force. After receiving the toss from Branyan, shortstop Jason Donald had to tag Chase Utley at second for the final out of the inning. Placido Polanco was able to score before that tag was applied. Acta said Branyan had three options in that scenario: A. step on the first-base bag, then throw home to nab Polanco; B. Throw to Donald for the force at second, then get in position for the relay at first to complete the double play; or C. Do what he did. Acta was asked if "C" was the only wrong selection of the three. "Sounds like it," he said. "We can't afford to have that [kind of mistake]."
Jensen sent down to Columbus
PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody in the Tribe bullpen knew a roster move was coming after Thursday's game, as the Indians had to clear somebody from their eight-man relief corps to make room for Aaron Laffey. Jensen Lewis ended up getting the axe, being sent down to Triple-A Columbus.That wasn't necessarily a knock on Lewis' outing against the Phillies, in which he gave up two hits with no walks and let two inherited runners score in 1 1/3 innings of work. Both Lewis and manager Manny Acta felt that outing was a step in the right direction for the right-hander. But the Indians still don't feel Lewis' command of the strike zone is where it needs to be. And the Indians are using his final option year for all it's worth. Lewis is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 20 Major League appearances this year, walking 13 in 21 innings. "It's an odd-man-out situation," Lewis said. "I know I've walked a couple people up here. I'll go down and continue to do what I've done, try to stay consistent and come back here when there's an opportunity for me."
Indians claim Nix off waivers from White Sox
PHILADELPHIA -- The Indians finally pulled the plug on Luis Valbuena, owner of a .166 average and .514 OPS through 49 games of the season.Valbuena was optioned to Triple-A Columbus after Thursday's game, as the Indians claimed infielder Jayson Nix off waivers from the White Sox. To make room for Nix on the 40-man roster, the Tribe designated right-hander Shane Lindsay, who was at Double-A Akron, for assignment. In an unrelated move, the Indians optioned reliever Jensen Lewis back to Columbus to make room for left-hander Aaron Laffey, who will be summoned to make Friday's start against the Reds. Manager Manny Acta said Nix, a part-time bit player for the Sox, will share time at second with Anderson Hernandez. "We'll work some sort of rotation or platoon [at second]," Acta said, "and see which one of those guys takes the bull by the horns." Hernandez is batting .276 with a .610 OPS in 11 games since his promotion from Columbus earlier this month. Nix, designated for assignment last week, was batting .163 (8-for-49) with one homer, five RBIs and a .513 on-base percentage in 24 games with the Sox. He started 12 games at third base, one at second and one in right field. He also saw some action at shortstop. In three seasons with the Sox and Rockies, the 27-year-old Nix owns a .200 average (72-for-360) with a .638 OPS. "I know he hasn't played much this year," Acta said. "But we're going to give him some at-bats and see what he can do." The main motive of the move, however, was to give Valbuena more grooming time in Columbus. "This is a tough level for kids to get out of deep holes," Acta said. "We want him to go down, have some success and see him later this year."
Charges filed against three Minor Leaguers
PHILADELPHIA -- The Indians are not commenting on the arrest of three of their Minor League players following an altercation in downtown Akron.Beau Mills and Jerad Head, who play for Double-A Akron, and Josh Tomlin, who is at Triple-A Columbus, were each charged with felonious assault after an altercation on June 3 at an apartment in Akron. The victim reportedly suffered serious injuries due to the assault. The case was filed on June 22 in the Akron Municipal Court, and Mills and Head appeared in court Thursday morning, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Mills, a first baseman, was the Tribe's No. 1 Draft pick in 2007. His father is Brad Mills, manager of the Astros. He is batting .205 this season and was recently placed on the Akron disabled list. Head, an outfielder, is batting .232 for the Aeros. The right-handed Tomlin is in the Columbus rotation, where he is 7-2 with a 2.70 ERA. General manager Mark Shapiro said the Indians will not be commenting on the arrests.
Wednesday marked the fourth time this season an Indians opponent has had a walk-off win. The others occurred on April 11 in Detroit, on April 28 in Anaheim and on May 17 at Tampa Bay. ... Tribe pitchers entered Thursday's series finale against the Phillies having gone 0-for-11 with five strikeouts thus far on this Interleague road trip. ... Trevor Crowe scored a career-high four runs in Wednesday's 7-6 loss. That was also a season-high for an Indians player. Crowe is batting .300 (9-for-30) over his past seven games. ... For more on the Tribe, visit the CastroTurf blog at http://castrovince.mlblogs.com.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.