SAN FRANCISCO -- Travis Buck barely had time to think when Indians manager Manny Acta called for the outfielder to pinch-hit in the ninth inning on Saturday night. Only a few minutes earlier, Buck was arriving at AT&T Park.
After a whirlwind day of travel, Buck made it to the Giants' home stadium in the eighth inning of the Tribe's 1-0 loss. He ran into the clubhouse, threw on his uniform, took a handful of swings in the batting cage and headed to the batter's box.
"At that point," Buck said. "I was just running on fumes."
Buck made solid contact on a pitch from San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, but he flew out to deep center field to end the game. With that episode behind him, Buck is hoping to reward Acta's continued faith in him as a hitter.
Buck was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday when Cleveland placed Shin-Soo Choo on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left thumb. While Choo is sidelined, Buck will likely see regular playing time in right field. The outfielder feels that could help him turn his season around.
"I think it's definitely going to benefit me," Buck said. "This been a very good learning experience for me. I played every day basically my whole career, or for the majority of my career. I'm finding out how tough it is to be a bench player."
Entering Sunday's game against the Giants, Buck was hitting .225 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 33 games over four stints with the Indians this year. On Tuesday, Buck ended an 0-for-24 slump with an RBI single at home against the Rockies.
Buck tried altering his weekly routine coming into this season, knowing he would be in a bench role for the Tribe. He has used various bat types and has tweaked his swing mechanics and approach. What Buck has lacked has been consistency, but he is hoping to correct that issue.
"I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself," Buck said. "I'm definitely hoping that I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it."
Hitting coach Fields alters pregame strategy
SAN FRANCISCO -- Teams typically hold meetings to study opposing pitchers on the first day of each series, filing into a room and breaking down video of the starting pitchers scheduled to take the hill.
The Indians are taking a new approach.
Recently hired hitting coach Bruce Fields plans on holding a meeting with his hitters before each game. Members of Cleveland's offense met in the visitors' clubhouse prior to Sunday's game to go over Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner.
"That's his job," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "If he thinks that will help them, then I'm all behind him. I try not to micromanage. I let everybody do their job, and then if somebody is out of line, then I'll step in.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"If he feels that going over those guys every day is going to help them, let's go for it."
In light of the team's continued offensive woes, the Indians dimissed Jon Nunnally as their hitting coach on June 19. Fields, who had been the organization's roving Minor League hitting instructor, arrived one day later and assumed Nunnally's post.
Acta said there is no secret to turning things around.
"In order for our offense to be good," Acta said, "just about everyone here has to be playing up to their capabilities. We knew that coming in."
Acta prefers working with DH in lineup
SAN FRANCISCO -- Manny Acta has seen baseball from both the American League and National League perspectives. Before joining the Indians, Acta previously served as the skipper for the Nationals.
That gives Acta a unique voice in the debate over baseball's use of the designated hitter. Asked if he felt the game should have a DH in both leagues, however, Acta kept his comments as neutral as possible.
"I don't think my opinion is going to change anything," Acta said. "So I'd rather keep it to myself."
One thing that's clear is that Acta was not thrilled when he first saw the 2011 regular-season schedule. The Indians are currently on a nine-game swing through NL ballparks, where the DH is not permitted. That has forced the Tribe's cleanup-hitting DH, Travis Hafner, to ride the pine as a pinch-hitter.
This is the second year in a row that Cleveland has been scheduled to play nine games in a row with the pitcher forced to hit. The Tribe is the only AL team to have such a stretch in both 2010 and '11.
Scheduling issue aside, Acta made it clear that, as a manager, he prefers working with a designated hitter in his lineup.
"The DH, just in general, makes it a lot easier for the manager," Acta said. "I don't doubt that every single one of us in the American League can manager in the National League, but it's so much easier to manage [in the AL]. The National League game is a challenge to manage. There's a lot more strategies involved right after the fifth inning.
"You're making decisions on the pitcher, or giving up an out, not giving up an out, doing a double switch. How the game was invented was without the DH, but we've had the DH forever and we have two leagues. We live with it. I've been on both sides. To me, it's a lot easier and relaxing to manage in the American League."
Sizemore's hitting woes not health related
SAN FRANCISCO -- Grady Sizemore's offensive struggles have been severe, but Indians fans can rest a little easier knowing that the center fielder's issues are not related to his recent history of injury.
Indians manager Manny Acta insists that Sizemore is healthy.
"Right now, health is not an issue," Acta said. "We haven't had any type of setbacks with his health. We're still going to have to manage his playing time, but none of that has been attributed to the health, not by him and not by our medical staff."
Sizemore started the season on the disabled list, but rejoined the Indians in mid-April after a 10-month recovery from microfracture surgery on his left knee. In May, the center fielder missed two weeks due to a right knee injury. Sizemore entered Sunday's finale against the Giants hitting just .177 since coming back from the 15-day DL on May 27.
The slump extends beyond that, though.
Entering Sunday's game, Sizemore had hit .183 (26-for-142) with a .612 OPS over 36 games, dating back to April 27. He was also hitting at a .145 (9-for-62) clip with a .508 OPS over his past 17 games.
Acta recently noted that Sizemore was stepping too far toward the plate during his stride, making inside pitches harder to handle. On Sunday, the manager added that Sizemore has been "swinging around the ball" and has been chasing pitches outside the strike zone.
"Guys just go through some struggles," Acta said. "This question wasn't brought up when he was doing really good when he came off the DL [in April]. He's just going through some struggles right now and he's going to have to work through it. He's gone through it before."
Quote to note
"If I'm a fan? [I'd want] a good baseball team, whether it has a DH or no DH. Hits. Catch the ball. Go first to third. Little guys on the top and little guys on the bottom being able to play small baseball and execute. And guys in the middle just whacking the ball away."
--Indians manager Manny Acta, asked if he'd prefer the game with or without a designated hitter
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is scheduled to meet with hand specialist Tom Graham on Monday in Cleveland. On Sunday morning, Choo said he expected to undergo surgery. Choo, who has hit .244 in 72 games this year, will likely miss 6-to-10 weeks. "God right now is testing me," Choo said. "But it's OK. I'll be back."
First baseman Nick Johnson is currently hitting .229 with no home runs and one RBI in 13 games for Triple-A Columbus. Asked what Johnson has to do to convince the Indians he is ready for the Majors, manager Manny Acta said the first baseman needs "to prove to us that he's ready to come over here by putting some offensive numbers up over there and showing the stamina of being able to go out there every day."
Indians outfielder Trevor Crowe, who has been sidelined all season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery, is still on pace to be ready for game activities by late July or early August. Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff noted that Crowe has started a hitting and throwing program at the club's site in Goodyear, Ariz.