DETROIT -- Josh Tomlin understands that he is going to allow home runs. And the Indians starter also knows he is probably going to give up more long balls than most starters around the league. It is simply a product of his pitch-to-contact style.
Still, Tomlin wants to find a way to limit the number of balls leaving the yard.
"I know the home runs are going to happen," Tomlin said on Saturday. "But I do feel like there are some adjustments I can make to limit that."
During Friday's 4-1 loss to the Tigers, Tomlin allowed three home runs, giving him 23 long balls allowed on the season. That represents the second-highest total in the American League behind Texas' Colby Lewis.
The high home run rate is misleading, though. Due to Tomlin's low WHIP (1.03), the damage done by the homers has been minimal. Consider that 15 of the 23 homers have been solo shots and the fact that 43 percent of Tomlin's runs allowed (32 of 74) overall have come via the long ball.
Cleveland has an 8-5 record in the 13 games in which Tomlin has surrendered at least one home run, and the right-hander is currently 12-6 with a 4.03 ERA. Among the 101 American League pitchers who have given up at least six homers this year, Tomlin is the lone hurler with more homers than walks (20) allowed.
Needless to say, despite the bloated homer figure, the Indians are happy with Tomlin's performance.
"We'll take him," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We like him the way he is. He's been very effective for us."
That does not mean that Tomlin is satisfied.
"I want a low WHIP for that reason alone," Tomlin said. "But I definitely need to make an adjustment on that to where, if I do have 80 pitches in the seventh inning, I have a chance to finish that game. That's something I want to be able to do.
"I've got to make the adjustment. I've got to figure out what makes me more susceptible in the later innings to the home run."
The problem does not rest with one pitch. After all, Tomlin had a sinker, changeup and fastball tagged for home runs in Friday's outing. The right-hander said he needs to continue to explore different ways to mix up his pitch sequences in order to keep hitters guessing into the later innings.
Overhauling his style is not an option.
"I'm coming right at you, and I don't care who you are or what you've done," Tomlin said. "That's kind of what I have to be, I feel like. Being around the plate as much as I am, if I start walking guys and getting heavy traffic on the bases, it could end up pretty bad for me."
Hafner aiming to break out of slump at plate
DETROIT -- Travis Hafner is known for his disciplined eye and patient approach. Lately, however, the veteran designated hitter has strayed away from his signature style and is now fighting through an offensive slump.
Indians manager Manny Acta did not sound overly concerned on Saturday.
"He'll be fine," Acta said. "He's always been able to come out of it."
Acta said that the problem of late for Hafner has been chasing pitches out of the strike zone -- uncharacteristic for the DH. For Saturday's game against Detroit, Hafner remained in the cleanup spot, where he has been productive when healthy for the Tribe all season long.
Entering Saturday, Hafner was hitting just .200 (9-for-45) over his past 10 games with 19 strikeouts and only two walks (one intentional) in 47 plate appearances. Over that span, Hafner's season average has dropped from .300 to .284, and his on-base percentage has slipped from .386 to .363.
"Whenever he gets into those funks," Acta said, "he just starts expanding [the strike zone] a little bit. He's swinging at pitches out of the zone. When he's going really good, you can see him taking pitches off the plate that are just two inches off the plate, even with two strikes. It comes and goes with him just like any hitter."
Acta noted that there was nothing physically bothering Hafner right now.
Hafner has appeared frustrated on the field at times during his recent slump, though. On more than one occasion, the designated hitter has turned to argue calls by home-plate umpires over the past two weeks. Acta said that that is natural for any struggling hitter.
"Usually you react like that more when you're not on top of your game," Acta said, "and when you're not having as much success. That's human nature."
Valbuena, Donald vie for playing time at second
DETROIT -- Indians manager Manny Acta would love to go with the hot hand at second base. In order to do that, however, Acta needs to first divvy up the playing time between Luis Valbuena and Jason Donald.
"Right now we're just matching them up and seeing if we can get the best out of them," Acta explained on Saturday. "I'm not going to make that decision after one game or two games. I have to be patient and give these guys an opportunity."
The recent injury to rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis -- sidelined for three weeks with a right hamstring strain -- has put Cleveland in a tough position. While trying to compete for the American League Central crown, the Tribe is forced to see whether Valbuena or Donald can step up and run away with the job.
Donald has hit .207 in nine games for Cleveland since being promoted from Triple-A Columbus. Valbuena, who was called up from Triple-A on Friday, was batting .120 in nine big league games this season, entering Saturday.
Valbuena -- a left-handed hitter -- got the nod at second base in each of the past two games, which featured right-handed starters for Detroit. While Acta insists that it will not be a strict platoon, the right-handed Donald will probably see action against left-handed pitching.
Acta acknowledged that second baseman Cord Phelps received consideration for promotion, but Cleveland ultimately felt that Valbuena was the better fit right now.
"Luis had the best numbers at Triple-A," Acta said. "Luis was the right guy for us up here."
At Columbus, Valbuena was hitting .299 with 16 home runs, 20 doubles, 57 runs scored and 71 RBIs in 101 games.
Duncan leaves team for personal matter
DETROIT -- One afternoon after rejoining the Indians, outfielder Shelley Duncan left his gear behind and headed out the clubhouse door.
On Saturday, Duncan left the club for personal reasons and was placed on Major League Baseball's Family Medical Emergency List by Cleveland. The Indians recalled outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Columbus.
"I'm not going to comment on it," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Duncan's situation. "It's a medical emergency with his family. It's a private matter that I'm not going to discuss with you guys."
Acta was not sure when Duncan would rejoin the Indians. According to MLB guidelines, a player placed on the Family Medical Emergency List is required to be away from the team for a minimum of three days and a maximum of seven.
Duncan was called up from Triple-A Columbus on Friday after Cleveland placed second baseman Jason Kipnis (right hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list. Carrera was optioned to Columbus on Friday as well, clearing room for infielder Luis Valbuen but was eligible to be called back due to Duncan's situation.
Carrera was available for Saturday's game against the Tigers.
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin has logged at least five innings in 37 consecutive starts to begin his Major League career. That puts Tomlin in a tie with former Indians pitcher and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell for the longest such streak in baseball history. Farrell worked at least five innings in 37 straight starts from 1987-88 to open his career for Cleveland.
Indians starter Justin Masterson has allowed two runs or fewer in 20 of his 26 starts for the Tribe this season. The 20 starts with two runs or fewer is the most in the American League. Angels righty Jered Weaver ranks second with 18 such outings. Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.06 ERA in his past 12 games.
Entering Saturday, Indians pitchers has issued 320 walks this season, the fewest in the American League. The White Sox ranked second with 337 walks allowed. Friday marked the 10th game this season in which Cleveland pitchers did not walk any batters. Entering Saturday, the Tribe's 1.27 WHIP ranked sixth in the American League.