CLEVELAND -- Following a three-game sweep at the hands of division-leading Detroit, the Indians opened an 11-game homestand against three sub-.500 teams. Seems like the perfect medicine for an ailing team facing its largest deficit in the American League Central all season, right? Not so fast.
Teams out of contention can often be the most dangerous come August and September, several Indians players cautioned.
"We've been on the other side, where we were supposed to get beat later in the year and didn't," closer Chris Perez said. "Teams like this have got guys playing for next year, young guys getting called up and showing what they've got for the first time. I guarantee they don't care what their record is."
Without much to play for in the waning weeks of the season, teams with losing records often extract the most out of their young players in an effort to see what they're capable of. That can put an extra burden on opposing pitchers.
"They're hard to pitch to," Tribe reliever Chad Durbin said. "They're trying to win spots and they're in survival mode, trying to impress their particular team's staff. So this is their playoffs."
The Indians discovered the demanding task of facing inexperienced hitters during Monday's 3-2 loss to Seattle, which trotted out a lineup littered with players fighting for a future roster spot.
"If you make pitches to these guys, you say, 'Well, he wasn't supposed to hit that,'" Durbin said. "But how do we know? There's not enough information there to back up the scouting report."
Indians exploring potential surgery for Hafner
CLEVELAND -- Time is not on the Indians' side, especially when it comes to the recovery processes of the team's injured players.
That's why when he was asked if the right foot injury to Travis Hafner -- on the 15-day disabled list -- could be season-ending, head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff gazed at his watch.
"Well, yeah, it's 15 days at least, and it could be longer," Soloff said. "Certainly if surgery is indicated, then that would mean [he'd be out for the year]."
Hafner strained a tendon on the bottom of his right foot as he tried to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning of Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Tigers. On his trek to second base, he pulled up lame, attempted to scamper back to first and was tagged out. He retreated directly to the dugout, hobbling on one foot.
"Right away, it was really sore," Hafner said on Sunday.
Hafner originally suffered what Soloff termed a milder strain of the tendon on April 27, while sliding into home plate. He was held out of the starting lineup for the ensuing five games.
Soloff said that the course of action since then had been to let Hafner use the upcoming offseason to rest and immobilize his foot. When he reaggravated the injury on Sunday, that plan went out the window.
"He was feeling good and then it just began to linger," Soloff said. "He was adamant about his desire to continue to play and support the team, and then he injured it again on Sunday in Detroit."
Hafner had an MRI on Monday simply to determine if he could remain on the active roster. That option has since been ruled out, as the team placed Hafner on the DL. Now, the club is exploring whether surgery will be required.
"We're not clear at this point if surgery is indicated to fortify that tendon or if simply immobilization is the premium choice," Soloff said. "If surgery is indicated, it's unclear exactly what would be done there."
Sizemore optimistic about a return this season
CLEVELAND -- Grady Sizemore sounded optimistic on Monday when estimating that he could make a Minor League rehab assignment by the end of next week. Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff appreciates the center fielder's hopeful outlook, but he isn't ready to jump to such a conclusion just yet.
"That's great to hear," Soloff said. "I trust his self-evaluation, but that's not outlined as of yet. We have a lot of hurdles to get over prior to that, so we're certainly happy that Grady's optimistic."
As optimistic as Sizemore was, he maintained a sense of caution. The center fielder is wary of another setback, a fair assessment given Sizemore's recent litany of injuries. Sizemore has played in just 200 games over the last three seasons, and just 94 over the last two.
"Hopefully if this week goes well, I'll try to get into some rehab games next week," Sizemore said. "That's assuming that everything goes well. That could change tomorrow or the next day. I definitely think I'll be able to get back before the season is over, unless I get out there and it doesn't feel good."
Soloff wouldn't put a specific timetable on Sizemore's recovery, but said that the 29-year-old would be re-evaluated after going through sprints and agility drills between games in Tuesday's doubleheader.
"We're going to re-evaluate him each day," Soloff said. "If all goes well and all checks out fine, we'll increase the intensity of his running activities as well as his baseball activities."
Earth's rumblings leave Masterson unfazed
CLEVELAND -- As the press box at Progressive Field swayed, Justin Masterson remained unfazed.
"I was just out there pitching," Masterson said. "I've got a job to do."
The players on the field felt no effects of Tuesday's earthquake, which measured a magnitude of 5.8. Despite the quake's epicenter originating near Richmond, Va., the shock waves spread throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast.
The press box and upper deck at Progressive Field shook for about 30 seconds. Indians manager Manny Acta didn't even know an earthquake had occurred, when asked after a 7-5 win Tuesday afternoon if he felt the shaking.
"We just thought that it was our fans jumping up and down," Acta joked.
The Washington Nationals delayed opening the gates prior to their game on Tuesday night against the D-backs, as team officials checked the stadium for damage.
Quote to note
"He's the one that should be there. He's the top arm back there. That's his job. He should be comfortable, because last year he wasn't pitching in [save] situations here, he was pitching in front of [Kerry Wood]. It's a matter of him getting comfortable and doing it. You're not going to play with a 24-man roster when you're at home because somebody's not comfortable in one situation. Just because I'm not comfortable losing, I don't leave when I'm trailing. I stay in the dugout until the 27th out. That's the way it is." --Indians manager Manny Acta, on using closer Chris Perez in non-save situations
Shin-Soo Choo welcomed baby daughter Abigail into the world on Monday night. She weighed seven pounds at birth. Choo missed Monday's game to be with his wife, but returned to the lineup for the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader with the Mariners.
Entering Tuesday's twin bill, the Indians had swept their last three doubleheaders. They won both ends of a doubleheader at Minnesota on July 18.
The Indians announced on Tuesday that fans can receive the opportunity to take batting practice from former Tribe pitcher Len Barker on Sept. 16. For $135, participants can hit live pitching off the former hurler and have dinner on the warning track behind home plate at Progressive Field.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.