CLEVELAND -- The Indians gambled that Grady Sizemore would enjoy a healthy comeback season, and the ballclub lost. A mix of injury problems have kept the center fielder off the field, and he will not see any game action before the season's end.
Considering the Indians invested $5 million on a one-year contract to retain Sizemore over the offseason, Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti was asked about the public perception that it was a waste of money.
"In retrospect, obviously, that's certainly true," Antonetti admitted. "We were hopeful that Grady would be able to rebound and play. Obviously, that has not happened. We knew there was a risk, obviously, when we signed him. It didn't work out."
Over the past four years, the 30-year-old Sizemore has undergone operations at various points on his back, left elbow and both knees, along with a pair of sports hernia procedures. Most recently, Sizemore had lower back surgery in March.
Sizemore was signed to a one-year deal after hitting just .224 with 10 home runs, 21 doubles and 32 RBIs in 71 games for the Tribe a year ago. Over the 2008-11 seasons, Sizemore hit a combined .234 with 28 homers, 47 doubles, 109 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 210 games.
Over the 2005-08 seasons, Sizemore hit .281 with 107 homers, 163 doubles, 325 RBIs and 115 stolen bases in 639 games for the Indians. Over that span, he made three All-Star teams, took home two Gold Glove Awards and earned one Silver Slugger.
Antonetti was asked if the team would consider re-signing Sizemore again.
"First and foremost, we need to understand where Grady is physically," Antonetti said. "And he needs to understand that so we can get a plan in place for him to make sure that he's healthy. I think that needs to be Grady's focus. Once we all have a better understanding of that, it'd be more appropriate to comment in the offseason."
Here and now: Indians focused on strong finish
CLEVELAND -- The time will come for the Indians to sit back, examine what went wrong this year and plan for how to tackle the issues over the winter. General manager Chris Antonetti believes the club's focus right now should be on the rest of this season.
That was Antonetti's message on Friday, when he met with reporters at Progressive Field to discuss a second straight disappointing road trip for the reeling ballclub. The Indians returned home on the heels of a 1-8 trip through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle and have won just four games in their past 25 contests.
"We will look long and hard for ways we can improve the team," Antonetti said. "But right now, the important thing is focusing on the balance of the season. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. It's not time yet to look to the offseason.
"We still have an important six weeks left in the season, and we need to make the most out of those six weeks."
Dating back to July 27, Cleveland (54-70) has tumbled from 3 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central to three games ahead of the Twins (51-73) for the worst record in the league. The Tribe entered Friday's tilt with the Yankees riding an eight-game losing streak, after having suffered an 11-game slide earlier this month.
This is only the third time in franchise history that the Indians have had multiple losing streaks consisting of at least eight games in a single season. Cleveland also accomplished that dubious feat in 1969 and 1987.
"We're obviously all collectively disappointed with where we are right now," Antonetti said. "No one is more disappointed them myself, the coaching staff and the players. The reality is there is nothing we can do about what's happened to the season to date, but there's a lot we can do about it going forward.
"That's where our focus is right now: 'How can we make the most of the last six weeks of the season?' It's an important six weeks. It's an important six weeks for every guy on the roster, and it's an important six weeks for our organization. We need to be in a better spot at the end of the year than we are right now."
Lowe understands Indians' decision to part ways
CLEVELAND -- Leaning against his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field on Friday, veteran pitcher Derek Lowe let out a slight laugh when asked if he had any bitterness over being released by the Indians earlier this month.
"Heck, no," said Lowe, who now pitches for the Yankees. "Bitterness? I was happy they kept giving me the ball every five games. This sport is about performance. It's not about anything other than that.
"That was the situation I put myself in. They were great. The organization was fantastic."
Last winter, Cleveland made Lowe its first major acquisition of the offseason when the club landed the sinkerballer in a trade with Atlanta. Over 21 starts for the Tribe, the 39-year-old Lowe went 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA before being released on Aug. 10.
The Yankees picked him up on Aug. 13 and handed him a role in their bullpen.
Lowe was not sure he would have another job offer.
"For the first time in 20 years, I didn't have a place to go," Lowe said. "I was honest with myself. I even told [my agent] Scott Boras, I said, 'I'm not coming back pitching like I was. If I can't go back and find something that I can compete again with, then I'll just stay home.'
"Because that was not even competitive pitching. I know you guys know that."
Over his final 13 starts for Cleveland, Lowe went 2-9 with an 8.28 ERA. It was a drastic dropoff from his first eight outings, during which the pitcher went 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA for Cleveland. Under the circumstances, Lowe had a feeling his time with the Tribe was nearing an end.
"I'm not going to say that I didn't feel like maybe something was going to happen," Lowe said. "The [last] two months was obviously bad. I knew they had some younger guys in the Minor Leagues that they maybe wanted to give a chance to."
LaPorta offered another opportunity with Indians
CLEVELAND -- Matt LaPorta has been given multiple chances to prove he can be the first baseman of the future for the Indians. Cleveland plans on giving him another opportunity to force his way back into the picture.
On Friday, the Indians promoted LaPorta from Triple-A Columbus and optioned reliever Frank Herrmann to the same affiliate. Tribe manager Manny Acta said the club plans on taking a close look at LaPorta over the final six weeks of this season.
"He's going to get plenty of at-bats the rest of the way," Acta said. "He deserves, and we deserve, to give him an extended look for the rest of the year."
LaPorta, 27, has spent most of this year at Triple-A after serving as Cleveland's main first baseman in each of the past two seasons. With Columbus, he hit .264 with 19 home runs, 19 doubles and 62 RBIs in 101 games. He split his time between first base, designated hitter and left field.
In parts of four big league seasons with the Indians, LaPorta has hit .237 with 30 home runs and 115 RBIs over 272 games.
Acta said LaPorta, who was in the lineup at first base for Friday's game against the Yankees, will see most of his action at first and DH down the stretch with Cleveland. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said LaPorta will ultimately control how much time he sees on the field.
"Matt's performance, in a lot of ways, will dictate it," Antonetti said. "There's an opportunity in front of him. Now it's incumbent upon Matt to go out and earn additional opportunities."
Quote to note
"We need to work to improve our situation, because it's been a disappointing year and a frustrating year, especially because -- I don't want to lose complete context -- up through July, we were a very competitive team and were within a couple game of first place. The way we've played over the last seven weeks have changed that."
Acta and Antonetti are still working through discussions about who will be called up when the roster expands to 40 players on Sept. 1. Acta said Cleveland will probably promote a couple of hitters and a couple of pitchers, possibly including one starter.
Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will shift to first-base coaching duties on Friday and Saturday. First-base coach Tom Wiedenbauer will be away from the club due to a death in his family. Tim Tolman will join the team temporarily as the bench coach.
Antonetti remains optimistic that designated hitter Travis Hafner (back) will play again for the Tribe this season. Hafner has been on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 6.