MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians are in the thick of things when it comes to the two American League Wild Card spots. Just don't go asking Tribe manager Manny Acta about it.
"What is the Wild Card?" Acta asked facetiously on Saturday afternoon. "I don't know about the Wild Card. I'm trying to win the division."
Entering Saturday, the Indians sat in third place in the American League Central, but just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox. Cleveland trails second-place Detroit by two games. With two months to play, Acta wants his team focusing on its deficit in the Central.
In the Wild Card standings, though, Cleveland also sits 4 1/2 games off the pace set by the A's, who currently lead the pack for the second spot. Including the current Wild Card leaders (the Angels hold the top spot), there are eight clubs within six games of the two postseason slots. Six teams are ahead of the Indians.
Acta does not want to hear about that.
"I don't want to hear about the Wild Card, please guys," Acta said. "Don't talk to me about the Wild Card until I've been eliminated from winning my division. The Wild Card should be a fallback for teams that don't win their division. You can quote me on that. Are you kidding me? Five games out and people want you to change your goals already to the Wild Card.
"I'm dead serious, too. I don't want to hear another Wild Card question until we're eliminated from our division. I'm not even keeping track of that. Wouldn't it be nice if at the end of the season, you're like, 'God, I didn't win my division.' And then somebody wakes you up and says, 'Hey! Guess what? You won the Wild Card!'
"What? We're going to the playoffs? Champagne all over!"
Acta paused and let out a laugh.
"That's the way I approach it," he continued. "I'm not looking at the Wild Card. No way, Jose."
Acta holding off on any major changes to rotation
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians might be on the verge of shuffling their rotation, but the ballclub is not going to make any drastic changes just yet. There is the matter of dealing with Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline first.
Cleveland continues to search for possibilities on the trade front, and the team is reportedly one of four aggressive suitors for Rays right-hander James Shields. Even if the Tribe is unable to pull off a trade for pitching, the club seems poised to make changes soon.
"I thought we were going to be better," Indians manager Manny Acta said prior to Saturday's game against the Twins. "But we have 62 games to go still. Things can change. Guys get better. Guys making adjustments. Teams make trades."
Right now, Cleveland has a pair of struggling starters in veteran Derek Lowe and right-hander Josh Tomlin. Lowe (8-9, 5.09 ERA) has gone 2-8 with a 7.59 ERA over his past 12 outings and Tomlin (5-8, 5.87 ERA) has gone 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA across his last eight trips up the hill. Lowe and Tomlin are tentatively scheduled to make their next starts on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Of course, nothing is set in stone.
Heading into Saturday's action, the Indians' rotation was 36-43 with a 4.77 ERA through the team's first 100 games this season. The group had compiled 377 strikeouts against 231 walks over 590 2/3 innings. Last year, Cleveland's starting staff was 36-37 with a 4.24 ERA through 100 games, with 388 strikeouts and 167 walks in 604 2/3 innings.
"I was envisioning our rotation to be better than what it is," Acta said. "I'm not going to lie to you. I was expecting certain guys to pitch the way they pitched last year, or better. My expectation has always been to win. if you're expecting to win, you can't be expecting to be in the bottom five in pitching."
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Shields' top suitors at this point include the Braves, Dodgers, Rangers and Indians. The Cardinals and Angels have also reportedly expressed interest in the pitcher, who has notched at least 200 innings in each of the past five seasons. Over that span, Shields went 66-55 with a 3.86 ERA. He is 8-7 with a 4.52 ERA this year for the Rays.
Acta said he has been discussing the situation with general manager Chris Antonetti.
"We've talked," Acta said. "But we have to sit back and wait until the Trade Deadline goes by, and we have a day off [on Monday]. We have plenty of time. It'd be foolish for us to be announcing anything or try to make any type of moves before the trading deadline. We have to wait and see."
Asdrubal gets day off as Lillibridge makes debut
MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the reasons the Indians traded for utility man Brent Lillibridge last week was to add a backup shortstop to the team's bench. That would allow Cleveland to find some spots to give All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera a rest.
On Saturday, Indians manager Manny Acta felt it was a good time to give Cabrera a one-game break. The shortstop shifted from the starting lineup to the bench and Lillibridge, acquired from the Red Sox this past Tuesday, took his place in the field.
"It's tough to give those guys a day off when they're a big part of your lineup," Acta said.
Entering Saturday, Cabrera was hitting .277 with 12 home runs, 22 doubles and 44 RBIs through 91 games this season for the Indians. Over his past 22 games, however, the shortstop has slumped, batting just .207 (18-for-87) with one homer and four RBIs. Cabrera's season average has dropped 23 points from .300 over that 22-game stretch.
Cabrera had appeared in 91 of the 92 games he had been available for this season for the Indians, entering Saturday. In April, the shortstop missed eight games while in Venezuela to attend the funeral of one of his grandfathers.
"I think he's done a good job of maintaining his stamina," Acta said of Cabrera. "He lost a week earlier in the year when his grandfather passed away. And we have been able to take him out of games at times if the game has been a blowout. But, it helps to have a backup shortstop to give him a breather here or there."
Indians starter Josh Tomlin has posted a 12.38 ERA in the first inning this season, allowing 22 earned runs on 31 hits (six home runs) with seven walks in 16 innings. Over the 2010-11 campaigns, the righty had a 2.13 ERA in the first inning. During that two-year span, he allowed nine earned runs on 28 hits (two homers) with six walks in 38 innings.
"I've done the same thing since 2010 that I've done up until today," Tomlin said. "I haven't changed my routine at all. What's worked for me in 2010 and 2011 in the first inning, I'm not exactly sure what the difference has been this year at all."
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, who hit .175 in 72 games for Cleveland this season, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. Cunningham was designated for assignment on Wednesday in order to add recently-acquired utility man Brent Lillibridge to the active roster.
Dating back to June 1, Tribe starters Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach McAllister have combined for a 3.38 ERA (61 earned runs in 162 1/3 innings. Starters Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin, on the other hand, have combined for a 6.81 ERA (84 earned runs in 111 innings) over that same stretch.
Quote to note
"I'd say both. It's pretty clear that just one guy is not going to make a difference, but pitching is always a priority in the game."
--Acta, on whether he'd prefer to trade for a pitcher or a hitter