BALTIMORE -- Rehabbing under the Arizona sun is all well and good, but sidelined rookie pitcher Alex White is much happier to be back with the Indians for the current portion of his throwing program.
"Absolutely," White said. "I'm getting back to throwing and getting closer and closer to being in games. It's good to be with the team, with the guys and be in this playoff race."
On Saturday at Camden Yards, White worked through a 30-pitch bullpen session that consisted of only fastballs. It marked his second mound workout since injuring his right middle finger during a start against the Reds on May 20. White is on the 60-day disabled list for the Indians.
Barring any setbacks, the 22-year-old White hopes to be a realistic option for Cleveland's rotation by early to mid-August. He is currently throwing bullpen sessions every three days, and he hopes to resume working on all his pitches on Friday. Simulated games and a Minor League rehab assignment will be his final hurdles.
"It is encouraging to see Alex be on track," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "and not have any setbacks or anything like that. We wanted to have him here around the ballclub so he can continue to mesh with these guys, but also to have him under our Major League medical staff's supervision."
Up to this point, White said the injured finger on his throwing hand has felt fine throughout his throwing program.
"It feels good," said White, who went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts for the Tribe before the injury. "There's some expected discomfort every now and then, but not when I'm throwing. It feels great when I'm throwing."
Smith quietly turning in stellar year in 'pen
BALTIMORE -- The sidearmer who works in the Indians' bullpen is no "Average Joe." Right now, Joe Smith is piecing together a season for Cleveland that is shaping up to be downright exceptional.
As is the case with most closers, Chris Perez garners the most attention among Cleveland's relievers. Rookie Vinnie Pestano and lefty Tony Sipp typically are the ones bridging the gap to their stopper. But mixed in the late innings, and quietly out of the spotlight, has been Smith's steady hand.
"If 'Smitty' throws the ball over the plate consistently the way he's doing it right now," said Indians manager Manny Acta, who paused before continuing, "he's a tough at-bat."
Smith has been more than tough of late.
Over his past 19 appearances, entering Saturday, Smith had logged 19 shutout innings with a .185 opponents' batting average. Across his past 27 games, which includes 25 2/3 innings, the right-hander has allowed just one unearned run.
Heading into Saturday's action, Smith's 0.80 ERA -- that's not a typo -- ranked first among American League relievers. Only Philadelphia's Antonio Bastardo ranked better in baseball with a 0.79 ERA. In 33 2/3 innings against Smith, opposing hitters had posted a .217 average, including a .118 mark for left-handed batters.
Acta said Smith's style of pitching lends to his success.
"I don't think you can count with your fingers how many submarine guys can throw 91-93 mph," Acta said. "Usually guys drop down there because they either don't throw hard enough from up [higher] or they need some movement or something like that. But 'Smitty' throws pretty hard from down there with movement, and has a pretty good slider."
Acta also noted Smith's improvement in consistently throwing strikes. Smith's first-strike percentage is 58 percent this season -- compared to 56 percent last year. The righty's overall strike rate currently stands at 64 percent -- up from 61 percent in 2010.
"It's no surprise," Acta said of Smith's strong showing. "He's been more efficient with his strike-one percentage this time around. It snowballs. It's confidence. Right now, the way he's throwing the ball, it's just snowballing. I wouldn't be looking forward to facing a guy like that."
Sizemore gets scheduled day off
BALTIMORE -- Grady Sizemore does not like seeing his name missing from the Indians' starting lineup. That does not mean that Cleveland's center fielder is against the scheduled days of rest. He knows that he needs them.
"Am I comfortable with it? No. But I understand," Sizemore said. "I'm not going to say I'm 100 percent, but I feel as good as I can feel."
On Saturday, amidst a hot stretch at the plate for Sizemore, the center fielder was out of the lineup for the Tribe's game against the Orioles. Sizemore still needs scheduled days off to help him rest his surgically-repaired left knee, and to give his right knee -- banged up earlier this year -- recovery time as well.
Indians manager Manny Acta does not enjoy sitting Sizemore, but like the center fielder, he knows that such moves are necessary for the time being.
"It's tough," Acta said. "But if we want to get to the promised land, we have to do it. He's too important to us. That's where we get in trouble, when we just forget that he can't be thrown out there every single day, and every game is so important, and you're trying to hold on to first place or build a lead.
"You have to accept reality. It's for the best, for him and for us."
Entering Saturday, Sizemore was hitting .236 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs for the American League Central-leading Indians, but he has been showing signs of life in the batter's box of late. Over his last four games, Sizemore was hitting .412 (7-for-17) with two home runs, one double, four RBIs and five runs scored.
"I've felt better the last couple of weeks," Sizemore said. "I've obviously had some early success here in the first two games [in Baltimore], but it's just two games. I'm working every day to try to get better and trying to get back in that rhythm where I feel comfortable and feel strong up there."
Sizemore has been working on some mechanical adjustments with his swing, and indicated that he has been feeling more comfortable with the minor tweaks.
"When you're struggling, it might be something small," Sizemore said. "But one small thing can lead to a lot of bad habits. So you just try to clear your head of that stuff and try to simplify things as much as you can."
Sizemore also tries to focus on the fact that his scheduled off days, as frustrating as they might be, are necessary in light of his recent injury history.
"I've been beat up for two or three years now," he said. "So it's just about playing it safe."
Quote to note
"He's been having better at-bats. We noticed that last week. That's a sign. We've talked. When you start walking and having quality at-bats, going deep in the count, that's a sign that you're seeing the ball better and that you're coming out of it."
Indians manager Manny Acta, on center fielder Grady Sizemore
Indians manager Manny Acta noted that starter Fausto Carmona is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday in order to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Twins. Carmona has been sidelined since July 2 with a right quadriceps injury.
The Indians have not revealed which pitcher will start the first game of Monday's doubleheader in Minnesota. Lefty David Huff and righty Zach McAllister (both at Triple-A Columbus) are the top candidates. Huff would be pitching on short rest, while McAllister would be on his regular schedule. Manager Manny Acta said he would probably announce the team's decision on Sunday.
Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta received a routine day off from starting on Saturday against the Orioles. Manager Manny Acta indicated that the team still wants to take a cautious approach with LaPorta, who recently missed time with a sprained right ankle. "LaPorta is coming back from that ankle injury," Acta said. "We still have to take it easy with him."
Right-hander Josh Tomlin's consistency is reaching historical proportions. Since 1919, only four pitchers have logged at least five innings in each of their first 30 career starts. That short list includes the Indians' John Farrell (37 from 1987-88), the Cubs' Pat Malone (33 from 1928-29), the Dodgers' Rick Sutcliffe (32 from 1976-80) and Tomlin (31 from 2010-2011).