KANSAS CITY -- The Indians plan on being cautious with Grady Sizemore, considering he is returning from microfracture surgery on his left knee. The center fielder is healthy, but the club still wants to provide him with scheduled days of rest.

Sizemore's first day off from the starting lineup since rejoining the Tribe came on Tuesday, when the Royals sent lefty Bruce Chen to the mound. Indians manager Manny Acta felt it was an opportune time to give Sizemore time to rest his legs.

"These first five games," Acta explained, "he wasn't going to play more than two in a row. It worked out very well where we played two games and the third day it's a left-handed pitcher."

Sizemore, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday, went 5-for-9 with one home run, two doubles, two runs scored and two RBIs in his first two games back with Cleveland. On Tuesday, Michael Brantley returned to the leadoff role and center field with Sizemore on the bench.

When Sizemore is in the lineup, Brantley shifts from center field to left for the Indians. The combination of Brantley, Sizemore and Shin-Shoo Choo from left to right field provides Acta with a sound defensive trio.

"It's a luxury," Acta said of having Brantley in left field. "It's a luxury to have a good center fielder playing left for you. Having those three guys running balls down, it's a beauty."

Duncan gives Tribe pop in pinch

KANSAS CITY -- The Indians believe that Shelley Duncan fits his currently role perfectly. That played a large part in the decision to keep him on the roster after Grady Sizemore returned from the disabled list.

Duncan gives Cleveland a right-handed bat with some pop off the bench and a solid option to serve as an alternative at designated hitter for days that the left-handed-hitting Travis Hafner gets a day off. Duncan got the nod as the Tribe's DH on Tuesday against the Royals.

"He's got the track record. He's done it," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Duncan. "He swings the bat well against lefties. That's something that we can count on. And then, on a day like today, when we give Haf a day off, it's nice to have a guy like Duncan to get out there and take some hacks."

During Monday's 7-3 victory over Kansas City in 10 innings, Duncan delivered a critical pinch-hit double against lefty Tim Collins in the final frame. Duncan drove in the go-ahead run and ignited a four-run outburst for the Tribe. So far this season, he is 2-for-2 in pinch-hit opportunities.

"When you're pinch hitting," Duncan said, "and you have that one at-bat, if you do well, you're jacked. Your emotions are sky-rocketed. If you fail in that situation, you're at the bottom."

Duncan believes the key to his success in that role stems from his daily preparation.

"I come to the field every single day like I'm in the lineup," Duncan said. "I go through my routine like I'm in the starting lineup. During the game, I prepare and watch the game like I'm in the lineup. It really keeps my head in there.

"I think along with the game, pay attention to the game. I stay loose during the game. You never know what happens. I'm always mentally prepared for any situation."

Quote to note

"Everything. Why be satisfied? Everything could be improved." --Indians manager Manny Acta, asked what aspect of his team could be upgraded

Smoke signals

On Tuesday, the Indians named outfielder Jason Smith the organization's Minor League Player of the Week. Smith, a native of Western Australia, hit .464 (13-for-28) with two homers, four doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs scored last week for Class A Lake County. The Indians will name a Minor League Player of the Week each Tuesday throughout the season. ... Entering Tuesday, the Indians (12-4) were tied with the Rockies for the best record in the Majors. It marked the first time since the end of the 2007 season, when the Tribe was 96-66, that the club had or was tied for the top record in baseball. ... Entering Tuesay, Cleveland's pitching staff had allowed the fewest hits (114) in the Majors. ... The Tribe's bullpen entered Tuesday's action with the best opposing batting average (.185) in the American League. ... Last season, Cleveland did not reach 12 victories until May 11, when it played its 30th game of the year. The Indians notched No. 12 in their 16th game this season.