CLEVELAND -- It's rare to find a team competing for a division title and also undergoing a youth movement. Injuries and offensive inconsistency have forced the Indians' hand, causing rookies such as Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis to learn on the go.
In recent years, top prospects such as Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana have reached the top of the organizational ladder when the big league club is out of contention. This year, the Indians' infusion of young talent has taken place while the team is winning.
"It's nice to be battling for first place," Chisenhall said. "To have these guys be a part of it and them to sneak us in the lineup every now and then, that's pretty fun to build on that and develop in crucial situations."
The fact that a number of the Indians' players suited up together at Triple-A Columbus has made their transition easier, Kipnis said.
"It gives me a little confidence boost knowing I'm playing with players I've played alongside with," Kipnis said. "They're doing just fine, so hopefully I can hold my own, too."
In a perfect world, manager Manny Acta said, the young players would remain in Triple-A until they're fully developed. But the Tribe skipper certainly won't complain, given the team's standing.
"In the ideal situation, you probably want those guys to finish their development," Acta said. "But these guys can finish their development over here and help us win."
Carrera, Brantley covering ground in outfield
CLEVELAND -- To ensure a base hit, perhaps the best bet for opposing hitters is to find a hole on the infield with a grounder. A fly ball likely won't do the trick, not with the amount of ground the Indians' outfielders can cover.
The club recalled speedy center fielder Ezequiel Carrera on July 13. With Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo both on the 15-day disabled list, Carrera and the fleet-footed Michael Brantley have manned the outfield like a pair of roaming cheetahs.
"There's not going to be too many balls that drop in," Brantley said. "I got his back and he's got mine. It's a great thing to watch."
Is it possible to have too much speed in the outfield?
"I have to tell him to scoot over sometimes, because he gets so close that we're going to run past each other trying to catch balls," Brantley said, laughing.
Manager Manny Acta hasn't been afraid to put Carrera in the leadoff spot in the lineup, where he can wreak havoc on the basepaths with his speed and set up the rest of the batting order.
"You can't find a guy that fast all the time," Brantley said. "It's just good having him up here helping out our team."
Indians not likely to become sellers
CLEVELAND -- The Trade Deadline is a week away, and this year, there's a different vibe in the Indians' clubhouse.
The trades of Kerry Wood, Jake Westbrook and Jhonny Peralta weren't surprises to many last season, as the Indians dealt all three veterans to make room for young players like Josh Tomlin and Jason Donald.
"Everybody knew that at some point, [Wood] was going to go, Westbrook was going to go, and there was a very good chance that Jhonny was going to go," Tribe skipper Manny Acta said.
This year, with the team in contention, and with much of the club's premier young talent already on the big league roster, the Indians aren't likely to become sellers in the next week. That alone has created a more relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse.
"This year, we're not just developing guys and using the year just to rebuild and be buried 20 games out of first place," Acta said. "We're in it, so there's a possibility that we'll be buyers instead of moving guys out of our locker room. It's a totally different story."
Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti have stated the case for the team to bring in offensive help via trade, especially with outfielders Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo both on the 15-day disabled list. The issue for the Indians, then, is which prospects to part with in such a deal.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, the team's No. 3 prospect, debuted with the big league club on Friday. He said trade rumors don't bother him.
"I don't listen to that stuff or read about that stuff or hear about that stuff," Kipnis said. "If I'm traded, then I go play for that team. But for now, I'm with the Indians and am loving it here and am going to play hard for these guys."
David Huff (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who was supposed to start Saturday's game against the White Sox, will pitch Wednesday against the Angels. Saturday's contest was postponed due to rain, and the Indians opted against pushing their rotation back a day, as Justin Masterson made his scheduled start Sunday.
Entering Sunday's action, the Indians (51-47) sat one game behind division-leading Detroit. In 2007, the Tribe's most recent trip to the postseason, the club was also one game behind the American League Central-leading Tigers for first place in the division through 98 games. That year, Cleveland was 58-40.
Indians radio voice Jim Rosenhaus was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday along with former Tribe catcher Tony Pena. Rosenhaus delivered play-by-play for the Buffalo Bisons from 1996-2006 and has been with the Indians since 2007. Pena played in 198 games for the Indians from 1994-96. Perhaps his most memorable moment in a Cleveland uniform came when he hit a two-out walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th inning of Game 1 of the 1995 AL Division Series. The solo shot gave the Indians a 5-4 win in what was, at the time, the longest playoff game in Major League history.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.