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05/18/11 10:54 PM ET

Looming difficult decisions a sign of progress

CHICAGO -- Something has to give on the Indians' roster when right-hander Mitch Talbot is ready to come off the disabled list. As far as manager Manny Acta is concerned, it is a sign of progress to have such problems.

"They are good decisions, man," Acta said on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field. "It means you're in a good spot, you're building depth. It's a different ballgame than last year and probably the year before. We hope to make tough decisions all the time."

The current plan for Talbot -- on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow issue -- calls for one last Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday before potentially being activated. When Talbot does return, the two most vulnerable members of the rotation are Alex White and Carlos Carrasco.

One solution for retaining all three pitchers could be shifting Talbot into Cleveland's bullpen.

"We're not thinking about him going to the 'pen yet," Acta said. "But there's always a chance of everything in life."

In 30 career starts for the Indians, the 27-year-old Talbot has gone 11-13 with a 4.19 ERA. This season, the right-hander was 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA through two outings before being shelved with the elbow issue. In a rehab start for Columbus on Saturday, Talbot allowed two runs on six hits over five innings.

Part of the equation is the fact that Talbot is out of Minor League options, meaning he can't be sent to the Minors without first being exposed to waivers. One way or another, he will be on the Tribe's pitching staff when he is deemed healthy. White and Carrasco, on the other hand, both have options.

Carrasco (2-2 with a 5.03 ERA through seven starts) opened the season as the Indians' No. 2 starter, and it seems unlikely he would be optioned to the Minors to clear room for Talbot. White -- the Tribe's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft -- has held his own through two outings, going 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA.

The Indians could elect to option the 22-year-old White back to Columbus to continue his development. Or, given his solid showing and the team's first-place standing in the American League Central, Cleveland might want to keep him on the Major League staff. One thing is certain: White is not an option for the bullpen.

"Alex is going to start regardless of where he goes," Acta said. "He has competed well. The secondary stuff, in three outings, is not going to get to the point where we want it or where he wants it, and we understand that.

"But, he has competed well. He has been able to throw strikes and show good poise on the mound. He's done well. Again, it's a very small sample."

Hafner pulled with soreness in right side

CHICAGO -- Travis Hafner was originally in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the White Sox. A little more than an hour before first pitch, however, the Indians' designated hitter was scratched with soreness in his right side.

"It's just rib soreness," Indians manager Manny Acta said following a 1-0 loss to the White Sox. "We took him out of the lineup and he's going to be re-evaluated when he shows up tomorrow. He did it in batting practice while swinging the bat. He felt a little soreness, so we stopped it."

Losing Hafner for any amount of time would be a blow to the Tribe's offense. On the season, the 33-year-old slugger is hitting .345 with five home runs and 22 RBIs through 32 games. Over his past three games, Hafner had gone 5-for-11 with three doubles, one homer and six RBIs.

Hafner missed five games from April 28-May 3 due to a strained tendon in the bottom of his right foot. Over the past few years, he has also been hindered by a persistent right shoulder injury, though that issue has not been a problem this season.

With Hafner out of the lineup in Chicago, Indians manager Manny Acta used Shelley Duncan as the team's designated hitter. Duncan was slotted into the seventh spot in the lineup. Left fielder Travis Buck moved into the No. 5 hole, which is typically reserved for Hafner.

Smoke signals

• The Indians entered Wednesday's play with the best winning percentage (26-13; .667) in the Majors, and the best run differential (+63).

• The Tribe has resided in first place in the American League Central for 41 consecutive days.

• Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera entered Wednesday leading all American League shortstops in homers (seven), RBIs (27), runs (27) and hits (47).

• Indians starting pitchers had gone 17-6 with a 3.00 ERA with 27 quality starts in the team's previous 37 games entering Wednesday's tilt against the White Sox.

• Cleveland's .989 fielding percentage was the second-best mark in the AL. The Tribe was tied for the fewest errors (16) in the league and had allowed just nine unearned runs on the year.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.