DETROIT -- The Indians are expecting to have Grady Sizemore back in the lineup in September and manager Manny Acta firmly believes the center fielder's return will provide the team with an instant boost.
The goal right now for Cleveland is to keep pecking away at Detroit's lead in the American League Central over the next couple of weeks. That way, the Tribe will be in a position to make the most of Sizemore's potential impact.
"I am anticipating him helping us out," Acta said on Sunday at Comerica Park. "Our main thing is try to finish strong this month and be as close or on top by the time that Grady can come in."
Sizemore has been sidelined since July 17 with a right knee injury and the center fielder also underwent a sports hernia operation on July 21. He is currently rehabbing both issues in Cleveland. Sizemore has progressed to long toss with his throwing program and soft toss in his hitting workouts.
If everything goes according to plan, Sizemore could resume game activities by early September, according to Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. After that, it might not be long before Sizemore is back in the starting lineup and manning center field for Cleveland.
Acta is excited about that possibility.
"People really at times forget how good Grady is," Acta said. "This guy, he makes an impact in your lineup even when he's not on top of his game."
Sizemore -- while fighting through the knee and groin issue -- has only posted a .237 average through 61 games this season, but Acta was quick to note that the center fielder had 10 home runs, 21 doubles and a .769 OPS in only 232 at-bats.
Asdrubal Cabrera leads the Tribe with 20 homers, 27 doubles and an .821 OPS, but the All-Star shortstop had 486 at-bats, entering Sunday. Carlos Santana (18 homers and 25 doubles) and Michael Brantley (23 doubles) had 418 and 442 at-bats, respectively. Matt LaPorta (11 homers) had 301 at-bats and Travis Hafner (11 homers) had 277.
"Grady has 10 homers and 21 doubles and he wasn't even at the top of his game," Acta reminded. "We still have guys that barely have one home run more than Grady and have like 200 more at-bats than he has. That's how good he is. He had an OPS of over .750 hitting .237. So we are anticipating him coming in and helping us out.
"We're just trying to put ourselves in the best position possible so when he comes in it's going to be a big push for us."
Hannahan getting the nod at third base
DETROIT -- In a perfect world, the Indians probably would have given third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall more development time in the Minor Leagues. This, however, is not a perfect world and injuries and slumps have forced Cleveland's hands on more than one occasion.
On Sunday against the Tigers, Jack Hannahan got the nod at third base for the fourth time in the past seven games. Chisenhall's offensive struggles since being promoted to the big leagues in June will likely continue to lead to increased playing time for Hannahan down the stretch.
"Yeah, why not?" Indians manager Manny Acta said on Sunday. "What we've been trying to do is when we've got groundball pitchers, we play [Hannahan]. We're trying to put our best team on the field. The changes were made because of our offense."
Acta referred to calling Chisenhall up from Triple-A Columbus on June 27, when Cleveland was hurting for offensive help.
At the time of Chisenhall's promotion, Hannahan was hitting .177 over his previous 43 games, former Tribe second baseman Orlando Cabrera had a .188 average over his previous 31 contests and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo had his left thumb broken by a pitch on June 24. Center fielder Grady Sizemore was also fighting injuries and a slump.
Chisenhall was called up primarily out of necessity.
"Look, nobody brought Lonnie up here to set the big leagues on fire," Acta said. "Lonnie was hitting [.267] at Triple-A when we brought him up. We all think that Lonnie is going to be a very good hitter and we all think that Lonnie is going to be a big part of our future.
"But at that point, when we made those moves, it was essentially because our offense was just flat-out stagnant with the loss of Grady and Choo and the struggles of Jack and Orlando."
Choo has since rejoined the lineup and the Indians also acquired veteran outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs on July 28 to help the offense.
Entering Sunday, Chisenhall was hitting .225 with three homers and seven RBIs through 36 games for Cleveland. Over his past 19 games, the left-handed-hitting rookie was hitting at a .189 (10-for-53) clip with one homer, three RBIs, four walks and 14 strikeouts.
Hannahan, who is one of the better defensive third basemen in baseball, entered Sunday batting .220 with five homers and 24 RBIs through 89 games. Prior to the past seven games, Hannahan had been given just one start over a 20-game stretch, and was being used mainly as a defensive replacement with Chisenhall at the hot corner.
"Our offense, it's a little better than at that stage when we made that change," Acta said. "We never expected [Chisenhall] to come over here and carry this club. Every one of those guys [rookies] has some type of adjustment period."
Tribe still looking to shake Motown blues
DETROIT -- If the Indians are going to capture the American League Central, the ballclub will probably have to find some way to shake off its recent woes at Comerica Park.
As lovely as the stadium might be, Cleveland has not enjoyed its trips to Detroit.
"It's kind of too bad," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "because I like this ballpark. It's a very nice ballpark. I like it, but we just don't win here."
Entering Sunday's game in the Motor City, the Indians were just 2-12 (1-4 this season) in the Tigers' home ballpark over the past two years. A main issue has been Cleveland's offense, which has hit just .196 with 10 runs scored through five games at Comerica Park this year, compared to .257 with 33 runs in six games against Detroit in Cleveland.
Last year, the Indians went 8-1 against the Tigers at Progressive Field, but 1-8 against Detroit at Comerica Park. That trend has continued this year, considering Cleveland boasts a 5-1 mark against its division rival at home.
"The same thing happened last year," Acta said. "For some reason, we don't win as many games over here and they don't win as many games in our ballpark. Last year was the same thing."
Quote to note
"I'm not going to blame our guys. We're not the '27 Yankees. We know that." --Indians manager Manny Acta, on his club's recent offensive struggles
It remains unclear when outfielder Shelley Duncan will rejoin the team after being placed on Major League Baseball's Family Medical Emergency List on Saturday. According to MLB guidelines, Duncan must remain on the list for a minimum of three days and a maximum of seven days.
Outfielder Trevor Crowe, who is on the 60-day disabled list recovering from right shoulder surgery, officially began a Minor League rehab assignment with the Arizona Rookie League Indians on Saturday, Crowe went 1-for-2, including a leadoff home run in the first inning. The switch-hitting outfielder also drew a walk.
Entering Sunday, Cleveland's bullpen had allowed only eight runs (six earned) in 44 innings against Detroit this season. That equates to a 1.23 ERA over 11 games. On Saturday, the Tribe's relief corps had a 26 2/3-innings shutout streak against the Tigers snapped. That impressive run began on June 14.