Indians like their chances with Pestano, Perez
Relievers are formidable pair locking down things late in games
DETROIT -- Manny Acta might be hesitant to relax in the later innings of tight ballgames, but the Indians manager sure likes his chances when he has the chance to put a contest in the hands of setup man Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez.
Over the past two seasons, the duo has developed into one of the best combinations in baseball.
"It's very comforting to me when we have a lead in the eighth," Acta said. "I mean, I tip my hat to the other club if they beat us, but I'd put those guys against anybody right now. More times than not, they have come out on top."
Entering Thursday's game against the Tigers, Perez led the Major Leagues with 19 saves and Pestano paced baseball's setup men with 15 holds. The pair of late-inning relievers have appeared in each of Cleveland's five wins over Detroit, combing for 10 strikeouts in 10 innings with just one run relinquished.
On the season, Pestano and Perez have teamed for a 2.49 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP, piling up 52 strikeouts and just 16 walks across 47 innings.
"The last two years it's been pretty good," said Perez, who made the American League All-Star team last season in his first full tour as the Tribe's stopper. "Vinnie's done an outstanding job. he makes it look easy out there. The last two years he's been doing it. Us down there in the bullpen, we just want that lead."
Perez entered Thursday with a 2.70 ERA in 25 appearances, but he had a 1.59 ERA and 19 saves in as many chances over his last 24 outings.
As for Pestano, the righty headed into the finale of the three-game series in Detroit sporting a 2.28 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. Pestano, who took over as Cleveland's primary eighth-inning arm as a rookie a year ago, has enjoyed the chance to bridge the gap to Perez.
"I try and go out there and obviously do the quickest job I can to get the ball to him," Pestano said. "And he's doing exactly what he does. He goes out there and saves games for us. He's done a tremendous job doing that. It's great knowing you have that coming behind you."
Sizemore's return to Tribe still on hold
DETROIT -- Grady Sizemore has been eligible to be activated from the disabled list for a few days now, but there is still no indication of when the sidelined center fielder might be ready to rejoin the Indians.
Cleveland has actually had Sizemore back off some of his rehab activities of late.
"The process has been slowed down a little bit," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Thursday. "But we've never had any timetable for Grady."
Sizemore, who was eligible for activation from the 60-day DL this past Sunday, discontinued some of his running activities over the past couple weeks, according to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. The center fielder -- making his way back from lower back and knee issues -- is still doing some hitting and throwing drills.
Soloff said slowing Sizemore's rehab program was not necessarily a crushing blow to the comeback process.
"It's more just a patient approach," Soloff said. "We're working off his daily feedback and we're progressing based on how he feels. If he's a little sore on any given day, we'll adjust his program accordingly. That was the thought process at the outset."
Soloff was also hesitant to call this a "setback" for Sizemore, who has undergone multiple surgeries (back, both knees, two sports hernias and left elbow) for over the past few seasons with the Indians.
"I'm not sure how you qualify a setback for a guy like that," Soloff said. "We're still optimistic that he's going to contribute in 2012. It's unreasonable and unfair to Grady and the process to set a definitive timetable."
Indians running into success on basepaths
DETROIT -- The Indians understand that they do not boast the kind of offense that can consistently get into a slugging match. Cleveland has needed to find other ways to produce runs and stolen bases have provided one solution.
Entering Thursday, the Tribe led the American League with 47 steals. Tampa Bay ranked second with 46. As for Cleveland's stolen base percentage, the Indians ranked fourth in the league with a 78-percent success rate.
"It's huge for us," center fielder Michael Brantley said. "We know that we're not going to have guys that are going to hit 40 or 50 home runs, so we have to manufacture runs. A big part of that is stealing bases, doing hit-and-runs.
"If you can get people into scoring position more often, the better chance you'll have of scoring runs."
Second baseman Jason Kipnis entered Thursday's game against the Tigers with a team-high 13 stolen bases. Brantley (nine) and Shin-Soo Choo (eight) were close behind. All in all, Cleveland had 12 different players with at least one steal and nine who had at least two stolen bases on the season.
Tribe manager Manny Acta believes having a full-time baserunning instructor -- a role filled by first-base coach Tom Widenbauer -- has helped.
"Over the last couple of years we've felt short-changed a little bit," Acta said, "because we didn't have a baserunning and outfield instructor full-time on our staff. I think this year, having Tom here from Spring Training working with these guys, has helped. It's not going to be everybody, but the guys who can do it like Brantley and Kipnis and Choo, they're doing it.
"Here and there, we'll sneak one of these big guys, if we have a good advance [report] on some pitcher. But, we didn't set out a goal as a team. It's just, 'Hey, if you can do it, you should be able to do it.' We've always stressed that it has to make sense for us. It's not about running like crazy. It's got to be a good percentage that's favorable for us."
Marson looking to impress in limited role
DETROIT -- Adjusting to a pure backup role has not been easy for catcher Lou Marson, but he knows that it's his job for the Indians and he understands that he needs to find a way to improve his performance within sporadic playing time.
"It was the first time that I haven't played that much," Marson said before Thursday's series finale against the Tigers. "It's an adjustment. That's probably how it's going to be. That's my role this year. I'm going to have to find a way, when I'm not playing consistently, to be successful when I do get in there.
"It is my role. I'm not saying I'm happy with it, but I've got to find a way to be successful."
Marson was Cleveland's backup catcher last season, but he received more chances to start due to Carlos Santana splitting his time between first base and catching.
Entering Thursday, Marson was riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he hit at a .400 (8-for-20) clip. That solid stretch began one day before Santana landed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on May 25. Marson was thrown back into the lineup regularly and his offense picked up as a result.
Santana has since returned to the lineup, forcing Marson back into backup duty.
"It got me some more consistent at-bats," said Marson, referring to Santana's stint on the DL. "When you can get those every day, I feel like you have a better idea of the strike zone and what you want to hit, having a plan. You go up and you have more consistent quality at-bats."
Stretches like that will be harder to find for Marson, who was hitting .213 through 20 games.
"It's hard for everybody, but there's nothing we can do," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That's his job and he needs to just work at it and do whatever it takes to get ready. Our everyday guy is Santana. There's no way around that one."
Quote to note
"I have the utmost confidence in Vinnie. He's done a great job. Being the closer, you need a good setup man to even get you the ball, and he's been tremendous."
-- Indians closer Chris Perez, on setup man Vinnie Pestano.
Entering Thursday, Indians center fielder Michael Brantley was riding a 14-game hitting streak. During that span, Brantley had hit at a .365 (19-for-52) clip with one home run, three doubles, one triple, 10 runs scored and 14 RBIs for the Tribe. Brantley hit his first homer of the season in Wednesday's 9-6 win in Detroit.
Indians closer Chris Perez had successfully converted 19 saves in a row, entering Thursday. That marked the fourth-longest single-season save streak in team history. Jose Mesa (38 in 1995 and 20 in 1996) and Doug Jones (21 in 1988) are the only two closers with longer single-season save streaks for Cleveland.
Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo went 3-for-5 with three runs scored on Wednesday to continue his hot streak as his team's leadoff man. Entering Thursday, Choo was hitting .329 (28-for-85) with a .412 on-base percentage in the No. 1 spot. He had a .444 (8-for-18) average and .524 OBP leading off games, and had hit .333 (11-for-33) with a .524 OBP in the first inning.