CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo's role as the Indians' leadoff hitter is past the point of being an experiment. It looks like Choo has found his permanent home -- at least for this season.
"He's such a natural for that," manager Manny Acta said. "He was the ideal guy."
The Indians' right fielder continued his hot hitting when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a 381-foot solo blast to right field on Thursday night. Choo was on base in three of his four plate appearances in the game, going 2-for-3 with a walk.
That kind of stat line has become the norm for Choo in 48 games, entering Friday, since moving to the top spot in the batting order. He was hitting .327 (64-for-196) with eight homers, 20 RBIs and 20 multi-hit games since becoming the team's leadoff hitter on May 14, raising his average from .235 to .295 during that span.
The Indians have tried a number of guys in the leadoff spot -- including Johnny Damon and Michael Brantley -- but they got little production from it until the move to Choo.
"He's been phenomenal," Brantley said. "It's just nice to have someone always on base for your two, three, four guys coming up. It's a big boost, it's going to create more runs. Hopefully, he keeps swinging it the way he is."
Choo's homer on Thursday was his fourth leadoff blast of the season. His success at the plate early in games energizes the offense, but it also helps the starting pitcher settle in on the mound.
"It's huge because he's either on base, or it's 1-0," starter Josh Tomlin said. "He kind of scares them out of the zone right off the bat. That can be a difference-maker in the lineup. You see a guy kind of getting scared out of the zone right off the bat, maybe he loses it for a couple innings. He's been doing that for us."
Despite his success in the leadoff spot, Choo continues to say he hasn't done anything differently. No matter where he's hitting in the lineup, he's has the same approach at the plate.
"I just play like me," he said. "I don't think too much. I just see the ball and swing. Good things have been happening for me."
New father of twins, Duncan back with Tribe
CLEVELAND -- The Indians activated outfielder Shelley Duncan from the paternity list on Friday, just one day after he and his wife, Elyse, welcomed twin boys into the world. Duncan was placed on the paternity list on Wednesday to make room for designated hitter Travis Hafner to come off the disabled list. The Indians had until Saturday to activate Duncan.
To make room on the active roster, Cleveland sent infielder Jason Donald to Triple-A Columbus. Donald, who was recalled on June 30 when Lonnie Chisenhall went to the DL, got only three at-bats during his stint with the Indians, going 1-for-3 with a double. Donald was on the roster mainly to back up Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop.
"[The move] had its purpose," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "We have the All-Star Break coming up. Asdrubal will have plenty of rest, so we don't feel like, in the immediate future, he's gonna need to be rested. We'd rather have [Donald] go down there and play."
Duncan was in a groove at the plate prior to being placed on the paternity list. The left fielder was hitting .391 (9-for-23) with four doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs over his last seven games. He entered Friday night's game with a home run in three of his last four games.
Duncan admitted he was a little tired Friday afternoon, but he was ready to be back with his teammates.
"I'm excited to be back," Duncan said. "You never want to spend time away from the team. I feel very fortunate that we're on a homestand during this whole thing."
Indians honoring Doby after Friday's game
CLEVELAND -- Everywhere else in the country, Jackie Robinson is the name people remember.
But in Cleveland, Larry Doby has always come first.
Robinson and Doby were the first African American players to integrate the National League and American League, respectively. But because Robinson came first, Doby is often forgotten.
"Everybody knows the first man on the moon," said Larry Doby Jr. "The second people that come along, it's just human nature to forget them. He wasn't at all dissatisfied with his position in history. He knew somebody had to be second. He was very happy with the place that he occupied, and he was proud that he was able to open doors for people to come behind him."
The Indians' organization, though, has always recognized Doby's impact on the history of baseball. The Indians had a special ceremony for the late Doby following Friday night's game against the Rays to celebrate the 65th anniversary of his groundbreaking integration into the AL. Doby's son and two daughters were among the guests on hand for the celebration, which included the city of Cleveland commemorating Eagle Avenue between Ontario and East Ninth streets as "Larry Doby Way." The organization also played a video commemorating Doby's career.
Doby Jr. and Doby's former teammate, Jim "Mudcat" Grant, threw out the first pitches before Friday's game.
"It's a serious honor that they would recognize him like this," Doby Jr. said. "The city of Cleveland always supported him and had his back. We take a lot of pride in the fact that Cleveland recognizes the things he was able to accomplish here."
Indians manager Manny Acta said the celebration was the least the organization could do for Doby.
"It's a big part of our franchise, without a doubt," Acta said. "[Doby's] always gonna be part of this franchise. It's something we should all be proud of."
Quote to note
"Back in the friendly confines of Progressive Field and everything, you saw the real Josh Tomlin and what he's capable of here tonight."
-- Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano on Tomlin, who allowed only two hits and one run over seven innings in Thursday night's 3-1 win over the Rays.
• Michael Brantley's solo home run in the second inning Thursday night was his second long ball in as many days. Entering Friday, the center fielder had only one other homer all season -- June 6 at Detroit.
• Aaron Cunningham's perfect throw from left field in the eighth inning on Thursday was the Indians' second assist from left field in as many days. On Wednesday, Johnny Damon -- a guy not known for having a strong arm -- threw out the Angels' Albert Pujols when he attempted to stretch a single into a double. Cunningham's play on Thursday was even more important because it eliminated a baserunner at a key point in a big game.
"That was huge," said setup man Vinnie Pestano, who was pitching at the time. "Obviously, you're sitting there hoping it just drifts a couple more inches. When it lands on the line like that, you're kinda deflated. It's easy to watch that ball go foul and pick it up, and kind of nonchalantly hose it in. To come up firing and doing that, it was a great play."
• Travis Hafner's home run in the eighth inning on Thursday night was his 96th career homer at Progressive Field. Hafner's total ranks him third all-time at the venue, trailing only Jim Thome (188) and Manny Ramirez (132).
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.