CLEVELAND -- No matter what the situation or the opponent, Nick Hagadone just couldn't command the strike zone.
After a great first two months of the season, the left-handed reliever was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Saturday because of his recent struggles. Hagadone allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning in the Indians' 10-3 loss Friday night. He had a 14.00 ERA in 11 appearances in June and July.
"Lack of command, and then the confidence, too," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Hagadone. "It's really tough for those guys to gain any type of confidence unless they're having success. Once the success went away a little bit because of a lack of command, then the lack of confidence kind of came in.
"Command of the fastball is the number one thing. He struggled to throw his off-speed [pitches] over the plate, which really helped the hitters to narrow from three pitches to just one. But he still has a pretty good fastball. If you can locate it and command it, you can get people out. He wasn't capable of doing that."
Earlier in the season, Hagadone looked like the answer to the Indians' left-handed bullpen problems. He posted an ERA of 2.20 in April and May while holding opponents to a .143 batting average.
But like southpaw Tony Sipp, Hagadone started to be inconsistent. The Indians have been without left-hander Rafael Perez all season due to a left lat injury, and they are still searching for a reliable replacement for him.
"It's been a bit of a struggle," Acta said. "We have really missed [Perez], who has been a mainstay there for so long. We had some spurts. Nick, earlier in the year, pitched well in that role. Tony, we're trying to find a way to get him back."
The Indians played with a short bullpen Saturday night against the Rays, and they plan to recall left-hander Scott Barnes from Columbus for Sunday's game. Barnes was in the team clubhouse on Saturday afternoon, but he couldn't be activated because he's required to be off the big-league roster for at least 10 days. Barnes last played for Cleveland on June 25.
"We're OK. Our guys are well rested," Acta said. "And if we get into any unexpected situations, we might be able to use one of those starters."
Hafner, Kipnis rest against Rays' Moore
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta gave designated hitter Travis Hafner and second baseman Jason Kipnis a scheduled day off Saturday against hard-throwing Rays lefty Matt Moore.
Hafner returned from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, and Acta said he wouldn't be able to play every day. Hafner went 2-for-11 with a home run in the three games since returning from knee surgery that sidelined him for more than a month. He went 0-for-4 and grounded into two double plays in Friday's 10-3 loss.
"I'd rather be playing," Hafner said, "but coming back from surgery, you can't run out there every day. It's good to have a day to kind of have it recover a bit. It's been a little sore running, but overall, it's good."
Acta said he liked what he saw from Hafner in his first few games back.
"He's a presence," Acta said. "I just hope we can have him for the rest of the season."
Shelley Duncan was in the lineup at DH instead of Hafner for Saturday night's game against the Rays, and Jose Lopez replaced Kipnis at second.
Both Duncan and Lopez have been swinging hot bats of late. Entering Saturday, Duncan was hitting .375 (9-for-24) with four doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs over his last seven games, with homers in three of his last four games. Lopez, meanwhile, entered Saturday's game hitting at a .500 clip (12-for-24) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs in his last eight games.
AL Central hotly contested in early going
CLEVELAND -- Entering Saturday, every team in the American League Central was within 10 games of first place. It's been a competitive division all season long, with the White Sox only three games ahead of the second-place Indians.
That's just the way Tribe manager Manny Acta likes it.
"Everybody should feel like they have a chance to win it, and I like that," Acta said. "I like parity, I like competitiveness. People like to call it weak because one team is not running away with it and the rest of them are 20, 25 games out. That's not what baseball is all about, that's not the way it's supposed to be."
Acta said it's good for baseball when division races are competitive. Despite the lack of a salary cap in the Major Leagues, the standings remain tight in nearly every division. The AL East had the biggest margin between first and second place entering Saturday, with the Yankees leading Baltimore by six games.
"Every town, every city, every fan base deserves to be in it and have a hope that they can win it," Acta said. "That's why I like our division. Whoever wants to call it weak, fine with us. I think it's impressive that just about everybody's still in it."
Quote to note
"I probably should have just thrown left-handed."
-- Indians pitcher Justin Masterson after giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings Friday night against the Rays.
Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan hasn't been the same hitter since coming off the disabled list June 15. Entering Saturday, Hannahan was hitting just .178 (8-for-45) with one RBI in 15 games since returning from a calf strain. Manager Manny Acta, though, said he isn't worried.
"I'm satisfied with the way he's swinging the bat," Acta said. "We have to take a step back and understand that Jack is not gonna turn into, all of a sudden, a batting champ over here. As long as he plays his good defense and gives his good at-bats, we're going to be fine with him."
The Indians put the leadoff man on in each of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings on Friday night, but they scored only one run. Jason Kipnis can't figure out why the team is so inconsistent with runners in scoring position.
"We can't let them off the hook when we get runners on," Kipnis said. "We're kind of hot or cold, all or nothing."
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo has reached base safely via a hit or walk to lead off the Indians' half of the first inning in 22 of his 48 starts batting first (seven singles, five doubles, two triples, four home runs, four walks).
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.