CLEVELAND -- Jack Hannahan played an integral role in the Indians' torrid start this season, and the slick-fielding third baseman is expected to see plenty of time on the field again down the stretch.
Increased playing time and improved performance often go hand in hand. Hannahan has been receiving more starts at the hot corner of late, and the third baseman has seen a spike in his offensive output as a result.
"It's huge," Hannahan said. "There's a comfort level there. If you haven't played in a long time, it's always tough to get in there and kind of get in your groove. When you get consistent at-bats, you feel comfortable and you're not searching so much."
Indians manager Manny Acta has a few reasons for turning to Hannahan on a more regular basis right now. Rookie third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has struggled at the plate, Hannahan is one of baseball's best defenders at the hot corner and designated hitter Travis Hafner is on the disabled list with a strained tendon on the bottom of his right foot.
With Hafner sidelined, possibly for the rest of the season, Acta plans on cycling different players through the DH role. For Wednesday's game against the Mariners, for example, Hannahan was at third and Chisenhall served as the Tribe's DH.
In the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader against Seattle, Hannahan set a career high with four hits in Cleveland's 12-7 loss.
"[Hannahan] had some really good at-bats," Acta said. "He was using the whole field against lefties and righties. It's good to see him good. He's going to get more playing time going forward, especially now that we don't have Hafner here. We should be able to distribute some of those at-bats."
Entering Wednesday, the 31-year-old Hannahan was hitting .231 with five homers and 26 RBIs in 93 games. Over his past eight games, however, he had hit at a .417 (10-for-24) clip. During a 38-game stretch from June 6-Aug. 12, Hannahan hit only .179 with 22 strikeouts.
Hannahan admitted that he was hindered by a right hamstring issue throughout June and July, but said the minor injury was improved of late.
"I feel like I'm healthy now," Hannahan said. "I was trying to play through a bad hammy before. It's getting back to where I was and feeling healthy. And I'm using a heavier bat now, and I kind of feel like it makes me use my hands more. That's all I've been thinking about."
Choo sidelined by left trunk soreness
CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo can swing the bat just fine. It's when he opts to keep the lumber on his shoulder that he endures pain.
On Wednesday, Choo added his name to the seeming endless list of ailing Indians with what the team described as "left trunk soreness."
Choo tweaked his left side and back during his final at-bat in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader. He was originally penciled into Wednesday's lineup, but was removed shortly before the game after going through a pregame hitting routine in the batting cage.
"Swinging is no problem, but taking pitches hurts," Choo said. "That's a weird thing, but I talked to [head athletic trainer] Lonnie [Soloff], and he said trying to hit a 94-95 mph fastball during the game could make it worse."
Choo said taking a full swing gives him no trouble. It's when he starts his motion and stops that he feels uncomfortable.
"Right before the game, we didn't think it was worth it to take a chance," Tribe skipper Manny Acta said. "He's day to day. He's going to come in and get some treatment [on Thursday], and then we'll see if he can play Friday."
It was an unfortunate twist of fate for a team fighting a slew of injuries.
Choo joined a list of walking wounded that includes center fielder Grady Sizemore (right knee), designated hitter Travis Hafner (right foot), second baseman Jason Kipnis (right hamstring) and outfielder Michael Brantley (right wrist).
Asdrubal Cabrera was also out of Wednesday's lineup, though it was a scheduled off-day for the shortstop.
Choo has played just 10 games for Cleveland since returning from the 15-day disabled list, following a seven-week recovery from a fractured left thumb.
In the afternoon portion of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mariners, Choo launched a three-run home run in the ninth inning to send the Tribe to a dramatic 7-5 walk-off victory. Since coming off the DL, Choo has hit .372 (16-for-43) with three homers and eight RBIs.
On the season, Choo has hit .262 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 82 games.
Phelps hoping to stick with Tribe this time
CLEVELAND -- Cord Phelps believes the key to success during his second stint in the big leagues is finding a way to stay more relaxed. The rookie second baseman feels he should be able to just do that this time around with the Indians.
"I think I will," Phelps said.
On Wednesday, Cleveland recalled Phelps from Triple-A Columbus and immediately handed him the start at second base and the lineup's second slot against the Mariners. It was the same treatment Phelps received when he was first promoted in early June.
After one month of mixed results with the Tribe, Phelps was sent back to Triple-A Columbus for more seasoning.
Now, Phelps is hoping to find a way to stay in the big leagues
"It's probably just staying in my comfort zone a little more," Phelps said. "Trying to relax and kind of enjoy the game. I think if you're able to do that, any player that's able to play loose is going to play better.
"And hopefully, I learn from things that went well and things that went badly last time. Hopefully, I'll be better for it."
After initially joining the Indians on June 8, Phelps went 1-for-16 in his first six games in the Majors. The second baseman then hit at a .320 clip over his next seven games before being relegated to the bench. On July 7, given his inconsistecies at the plate and in the field, Phelps was shipped out.
Cleveland recalled Phelps due to what has turned into a revolving door at second base. Veteran Orlando Cabrera was traded to the Giants on July 31, rookie Jason Kipnis is on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring injury and Jason Donald had been splitting time recently with Luis Valbuena.
Valbuena was optioned down to Triple-A on Tuesday in order to vacate room on the active roster for right-hander Zach McAllister, who started the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader in Cleveland. After a subpar showing (10 runs in 3 1/3 innings) against the Mariners, McAllister was optioned back to Columbus and Phelps was called up.
Phelps, who has hit .294 with 15 homers and 63 RBIs in 97 games for the Clippers this season, said he was surprised to get the news.
"It's always exciting to get called up," Phelps said. "I'm definitely glad to be back. I'm just happy it happened."
Quote to note
"The season's not over. We're not eliminated yet. They haven't clinched yet. I haven't seen them jumping up and down on the field yet. We have a lot of baseball left to go." -- Indians closer Chris Perez, on chasing the first-place Tigers in the division
Center fielder Grady Sizemore, who is on the DL as he works his way back from a right knee injury and sports hernia surgery, took batting practice on the field prior to Wednesday's game at Progressive Field. There is no established timetable for Sizemore's return, but he might be able to begin a Minor League rehab assignment by the end of next week.
Former Indians starter Alex White -- traded to Colorado on July 31 as part of the blockbuster swap that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland -- made his debut for the Rockies on Tuesday night. In six innings against the Astros, White allowed five runs on seven hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.
On Tuesday, Triple-A Columbus clinched the International League West Division title with a 5-0 win over Buffalo. It marks the first division crown for the Clippers since 2004 and the team's 13th overall. Columbus, which won the IL and Triple-A titles last year, entered Wednesday with an 81-51 record.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.