CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe that rookie reliever and No. 14 prospect C.C. Lee will soon become a key piece in their bullpen. While balancing making decisions aimed at winning games, Cleveland manager Terry Francona is also keeping Lee's development in mind.
In the ninth inning of the Tribe's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday, Francona found an opportune chance to trust Lee with an important situation. Trailing by one run, Lee took over with a runner on first base, two outs and Toronto slugger Jose Bautista at the plate.
"I thought, 'This is a good opportunity,'" Francona said. "Because, if he gets them out, he's going to feel good about himself. I thought he handled himself great."
Francona said he could have turned to right-hander Bryan Shaw, but the manager also likes to avoid turning to his regular arms too often when Cleveland is behind. Bautista and the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, had no experience against the sidearmer Lee, who has appeared in just 12 Major League games.
Lee quickly worked to an 0-2 count on Bautista, who then fought back. After getting to a full count, the Blue Jays' outfielder fouled off three straight pitches from the 27-year-old right-hander. Lee won the battle, inducing an inning-ending groundout to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
"C.C. is going to be a big part of our future. The more he's a part of our present is good," Francona said. "I actually thought Bautista had a really good at-bat. I thought C.C. made a lot of good pitches, but when you get a hitter like that who is that dangerous and sees that many pitches, they become more dangerous."
Despite errors, Tribe wants Gomes to keep throwing
CLEVELAND -- Indians catcher Yan Gomes is known for his strong right arm. In the first few weeks of this season, though, Gomes has featured a loose cannon.
Entering Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, Gomes had already made five errors for Cleveland. The 26-year-old catcher had three errors all of last season and only four in his career heading into the current campaign.
Gomes said it is hard not to be aware of the issue.
"It's natural to -- definitely," Gomes said. "But it's the game, man. I guess now it's becoming a learning experience. I've got to keep that aggressiveness. That's never going to get away from me."
That last sentiment was echoed by Indians manager Terry Francona on Saturday morning.
"He's pretty tough on himself, too," Francona said. "We try to keep an eye on things like that. The one thing we don't want him to do is stop throwing, because it's such a big part of his game."
During the seventh inning of Friday's 3-2 loss to Toronto, Gomes skipped a throw to first baseman Nick Swisher on a pick-off attempt. With a perfect throw, Munenori Kawasaki would likely have been thrown out easily on the play, but the error allowed the runners to advance to second and third base.
Two batters later, Edwin Encarnacion hit an RBI single with the bases loaded to put the Blue Jays ahead for good.
"I wasn't pleased with the outcome," Francona said. "But I loved what they did. I've been talking to Swish and Gomer about that play. It's there and they had the guy out, and it had the chance to get us out of a big inning."
Masterson working with decreased velocity
CLEVELAND -- Given the kind of performance Justin Masterson was able to give the Indians on Friday night, the sinkerballer was not too concerned about what numbers flashed on the radar gun.
Masterson knows his pitch velocity has not been up to par to this point this season, but he is confident that the miles per hour will go up as the season progresses. Cleveland's No. 1 starter feels that is the case largely due to some mechanical adjustments he recently made with pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
"It's not the 95 or 96 [mph] like I'd like it to be yet," Masterson said. "Hopefully that's what we're working on. And then we made an adjustment. We were flying open quite a bit the last couple outings. My arm feels great. The movement is great. The slider is great. It's more we were kind of flying, so now going into [Friday], we did a little bit better of staying behind it.
"We were behind the ball [Friday], so maybe velocity will come after that. But the sinker has been 90-91 [mph]. Yeah, some go down, but that's the way it always is with me. I get a range. But, yeah, we haven't been able to step on the gas pedal for those other ones. If we keep doing what I did [Friday], I'm not too worried about it."
During Friday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays, Masterson was charged with two runs -- one scored after he exited the contest -- on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander ended with nine strikeouts and two walks for the Tribe. In his previous two outings, Masterson allowed 12 runs (10 earned) on 14 hits with 11 strikeouts and eight walks in 8 1/3 innings combined.
According to Fangraphs.com, which uses PITCHf/x data, Masterson has averaged 88.7 mph on his fastball this season. Last year, the righty averaged 93.95 mph in April and 91.6 mph for the season. He averaged 91.9 mph in 2012 and 92.7 mph in '11.
"He looked better," Callaway said of Masterson's outing on Friday. "And his [velocity] was up from where it has been. Now he just has to continue with those mechanics and build his arm strength."
Quote to note
"I just think sometimes you can't just look at a number. There's always more to it. He's very active back there. He has some of the quickest feet you'll ever see. He isn't throwing yet like he will. I think there have been times when he has, but I think as it warms up and you get more into the season, he'll throw it more consistently better."
--Francona, on Gomes' five errors
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, who recently returned from the 15-day disabled list after a left hamstring injury, was out of the lineup on Saturday following three consecutive games played. Entering Saturday, Bourn was 1-for-13 with one stolen base, two walks, two runs and five strikeouts since rejoining the Tribe.
"He's certainly not in midseason form. I don't know how you would be," Francona said. "The only way to get guys going is to run them out there and let them do their thing. He'll find it. He'll start impacting us."
• Veteran right-hander Shaun Marcum, who signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland over the winter, remains in Arizona while coming back from the July surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Francona said Marcum has been built up to three innings, but there remains no timetable for when he will join a Minor League affiliate.
"We never wanted to have a timeline," Francona said, "because we didn't think that would be beneficial. If you have an artificial timeline and he's not ready to show what he can do, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So we're totally going off of how he feels."
• Indians catching prospect Jake Lowery was struck in the face with a pitch during Double-A Akron's 7-6 win over Bowie on Friday, sustaining a right orbital fracture. Lowery is scheduled to be examined at Cleveland Clinic early next week to further establish a plan or treatment and recovery.
Lowery posted this message on Twitter (@jlowery3) on Saturday: "Thanks to everyone for reaching out with prayers, texts, and messages! Much appreciated and I'm starting to feel better!"