CHICAGO -- A variety of issues forced the Indians to play three men short on Thursday night.
Designated hitter Travis Hafner remains sidelined with soreness in his right side and outfielder Travis Buck was a late scratch from Thursday's lineup due to an issue with his left big toe. Complicating matters was the fact that second baseman Orlando Cabrera was away from the team to become a U.S. citizen.
"It's part of the game, part of the season," Indians manager Manny Acta said of the missing players. "Every team goes through it. We're just going to have to continue to battle and go with what we have."
Under the circumstances, the Indians recalled infielder Luis Valbuena from Triple-A Columbus prior to Thursday's 8-2 loss against the White Sox to help the Tribe's short-handed bench. To clear room on the roster, Cleveland designated reliever Justin Germano for assignment.
The Indians -- already without center fielder Grady Sizemore, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee injury -- are hoping Hafner and Buck are only out temporarily.
Hafner, who is hitting .345 with five homers and 22 RBIs through 32 games, developed what Acta described as "rib soreness" while swinging a bat during pregame batting practice on Wednesday. The manager noted that Hafner would likely undergo an MRI exam and be re-evaluated on Friday in Cleveland.
"Hafner is better today," Acta said on Thursday. "He tested a lot better this morning with [head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff]. Then tomorrow, we're going back home. They're probably going to run some tests on him and we'll go from there."
Acta said he was "not going to go there" when asked if Hafner was a candidate for the disabled list.
As for Buck, who was recalled from Triple-A on Monday to replace Sizemore on the roster, Acta said the outfielder has dealt with a turf toe issue for some time. Buck was initially in Thursday's lineup as a DH, but the injury flared up again, forcing Acta to replace him with Shelley Duncan.
"He's got a turf toe that has been bothering him," Acta said of Buck. "It acted up today and we took him out of the lineup. [He's sidelined] just today."
OCab leaves Indians to finalize U.S. citizenship
CHICAGO -- Orlando Cabrera left the Indians on Thursday and that was fine with the ballclub. The veteran infielder headed home to South Carolina, where he was scheduled to officially become a citizen of the United States.
That news brought a warm smile to manager Manny Acta's face.
"I know that he's very happy and excited," Acta said on Thursday. "I've gone through it. It is a great moment. We all appreciate the type of life that you can live here with all the freedom and all the security we have here. It's going to be a great moment for him."
Acta, who was born in the Dominican Republic, became a U.S. citizen in 1999. Cabrera -- a native of Colombia -- has been going through the legal citizenship process for the past few months.
Asked if he remembered any of the questions on the citizenship test, Acta chuckled.
"No, it's been too long," said Acta, who then paused. "Liberty or death. Patrick Henry. That's in there."
Solid play earns Valbuena big league promotion
CHICAGO -- Luis Valbuena's stay with the Indians could be brief, but the infielder knows his success early on this season with Triple-A Columbus helped pave the way for his promotion on Thursday.
"I'm happy with how things have gone in Columbus," Valbuena said. "I'm working a lot and hitting well and playing good. It gave me the opportunity to come back here."
Valbuena was recalled from Triple-A to help a short-handed Indians bench, which only included the infielder and backup catcher Lou Marson on Thursday. Travis Hafner and Travis Buck were sidelined with injuries and Orlando Cabrera was away from the team to become a U.S. citizen.
Through 31 games for Columbus, the 25-year-old Valbuena had hit .270 with four homers, 10 doubles, 18 runs scored and 21 RBIs. He spent time at shortstop and third base and recently -- given the surplus of infielders assigned to the affiliate -- moved to left field in order to remain in the lineup.
"We have a lot of people there," Valbuena said. "They wanted to keep me in the lineup. That's why I played left field. ... Now, I have it in my mind that I can play everywhere. Nothing is a surprise."
It is possible that Valbuena will be optioned back to the Minors when Cabrera returns to the team on Friday. The door could open for Valbuena to stick around if either Hafner or Buck require a trip to the disabled list.
"He was playing well," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Valbuena. "And he was playing all over the place. So he gives us a good option [on Thursday]."
Last season, Valbuena hit .191 with two homers, 12 doubles, 22 runs scored and 24 RBIs in 91 games for the Indians.
Acta confident bullpen can cover Germano's exit
CHICAGO -- The decision to designate right-hander Justin Germano for assignment on Thursday left Cleveland's bullpen one arm short of its typical alignment. For at least one day, Indians manager Manny Acta believed his bullpen would be fine.
Aiding Acta's confidence was the fact that ace Fausto Carmona was on the hill against the White Sox.
"We have six guys in the 'pen and they're pretty fresh," Acta said before his team endured an 8-2 loss. "If between Fausto and six relievers we can't make the game today, we are in serious trouble."
Germano was designated in order to clear a roster spot for the arrival of infielder Luis Valbuena, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus to help Cleveland's short-handed bench. Now, the Tribe has 10 days to either trade or release Germano, or the club can re-assign him to a Minor League affiliate if he clears waivers.
Acta said the Indians do not necessarily need to add a reliever for Friday's home game against the Reds.
"We're OK right now," Acta said. "Out of all our guys in the bullpen, not one guy has thrown even twice during the last week or so. Our starters have been so good as of late. The two rainouts [on Saturday and Sunday] obviously helped. Right now, we don't have any emergency type of issues in the bullpen."
Germano opened the season in Cleveland's bullpen and had mixed results through nine appearances for the Tribe. Over that span, he went 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA, allowing eight earned runs on 15 hits over 12 2/3 innings.
Indians right-hander Mitch Talbot, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow issue, was scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. If all goes well, Talbot will likely be ready to be activated to rejoin the Tribe's staff within the next five days. The Indians' game against the Red Sox on Monday will be televised nationally by ESPN2. The game will still be broadcast locally on SportsTime Ohio. Following Thursday's loss, the Indians have posted a 3.15 ERA on the road, compared to a 3.86 ERA at home. Cleveland is 11-11 on the road compared to 15-4 at home.