07/29/11 7:20 PM ET
Choo feeling good, ahead of rehab schedule
By Jordan Bastian and Zack Meisel / MLB.com
On Friday, Choo continued a throwing and hitting program that began a couple weeks ahead of his initial rehab schedule. If it were up to Choo, he would be back in the lineup for Cleveland in time for the Aug. 16-18 road series against the White Sox.
"I feel good," Choo said. "This team, this situation, I want to come back as soon as possible. I want to play right field. I want to play every day. I want to be back as soon as possible, but I'm not going to be stupid. If I feel good, I'll keep pushing it."
Choo, who had the thumb on his throwing hand broken by a pitch from Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez on June 24, has been throwing from a distance of 90 feet and hitting baseballs off a tee. If he receives clearance from head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, Choo would like to begin a soft-toss program on Sunday.
Choo admitted to feeling some stiffness in his thumb, but he quickly noted that was normal considering he had surgery on the digit on June 29.
Cleveland -- short Choo and injured center fielder Grady Sizemore at the moment -- acquired right fielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs in a trade on Thursday that sent a pair of Minor Leaguers to Chicago. The current plan is to have Fukudome man right field until Choo is able to rejoin the ballclub.
First, Choo needs to continue to pass each step in his rehab.
"He's doing very well," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He took about 40 swings today off a tee and stuff. He felt good. If things continue to progress this way, we might be looking at him to take batting practice in a week or so -- a week to 10 days. It's encouraging."
Acta has Fukudome slated for full-time duty
CLEVELAND -- The Indians didn't acquire Kosuke Fukudome to share time in the crowded Cleveland outfield. He'll play -- and he'll do so just about every day.
"He'll play today and [Saturday] and the day after," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's going to be our right fielder here. That's pretty much it."
Seeing his name penciled into the lineup on a daily basis might be the only thing that remains the same in Fukudome's life, as he left behind the Cubs -- fifth in the National League Central entering play Friday -- to join an Indians club battling for American League Central supremacy.
"Cleveland was the first team that had interest in me and the Indians are competing for first place," Fukudome said through his interpreter, Hiro Aoyama. "This is something that I really wanted to do."
It was Fukudome's choice to come to Cleveland, as the veteran outfielder had to waive his no-trade clause before the Cubs could tell him to pack his bags.
"I welcomed him and really thanked him for coming over here," Acta said. "He had a choice, obviously. He waived his no-trade clause to come over here. I just want to make him feel welcome and let him know that I'm not expecting him to come over here and carry this team on his shoulders. Just be Kosuke."
In 87 games with the Cubs, primarily out of the leadoff spot, Fukudome hit .273 with three homers and 13 RBIs. In Cleveland, he'll hit out of the No. 6 spot in the order, leaving leadoff duties to Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera.
"He's a professional hitter," Acta said. "That's all I want. Our middle to bottom of our lineup, we have a lot of inexperienced kids. I need somebody like him in there right now."
Fukudome, whose .374 on-base percentage ranks 14th in the National League, told Acta, "Don't worry about me. I don't care where I hit."
"It doesn't matter if I'm hitting in the leadoff spot or in the sixth spot," Fukudome said. "I just need to do the job that I need to do. It's the manager's job to make that decision."
In addition to joining a contending team and batting lower in the lineup, Fukudome also switches leagues. He'll now have to pick up on the tendencies of pitchers on 15 American League rosters. He said he won't know how steep that learning curve will be until he plays. Acta isn't too worried about his 34-year-old outfielder.
"It's usually not easy, because obviously when he's playing over there he knows most of those pitchers," Acta said. "But at times, that can also work as an advantage. I think that the main thing should be not to think so much about it. ... If you ask guys, we all like to be comfortable and know the people we're facing and that we've seen in the past.
"But it is baseball. Sixty feet, six inches. ... He's going to be OK."
Brantley, Carrera will be regulars for now
CLEVELAND -- The arrival of Kosuke Fukudome sparked a short game of musical chairs in the Indians' outfield. After an ensuing transaction and a few decisions, the rotation is set for now, though the return of Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore from injury could further complicate the club's use of its abundance of outfielders.
To create room on the 40-man roster for Fukudome -- acquired on Thursday from the Cubs for a pair of Minor Leaguers -- the Indians designated outfielder Travis Buck for assignment. Manager Manny Acta said Fukudome will play every day in right field, adding that Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera will join him in the outfield most days, often leaving Austin Kearns on the bench.
"Carrera is still going to get some opportunities to continue to play center field," Acta said. "Kosuke is just going to play right field for now."
That could change if and when Choo and Sizemore return from the 15-day disabled list. Acta said Choo could take batting practice in a week to 10 days as he recovers from a broken left thumb. When he makes his way back into the outfield, it will likely be to his normal right field spot.
That could mean another series of shifts, with Fukudome a candidate to man center field.
"He's got experience playing center field, too," Acta said. "He's a good defender. We don't worry about that. I knew this one was coming. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."
One factor that won't change with Fukudome's presence is the top of the Indians' lineup. Acta said Carrera and Brantley will continue to initiate the Tribe order.
"I think Brantley has done a very good job," Acta said. "We also want to take a look at Zeke and what he can do with that."
Acta said he likes the balance Fukudome can bring to the order by hitting out of the No. 6 spot.
"I thought very hard about it and I need a guy right behind those guys in the middle that can give me a professional at-bat," Acta said. "This guy can do it against righties and lefties."
Quote to note
"Terrible." -- Indians reliever Joe Smith on his performance in Thursday's Cleveland Indians Celebrity Golf Classic.
Wanting to avoid any potential injuries, Smith brought just two clubs -- a wedge and a putter -- to Quail Hollow Country Club in Concord, Ohio. In addition to being smitten with his short game, Smith also complained that it was too hot, as temperatures hovered around 90 degrees with high humidity following an early-morning storm.
Right-hander Alex White, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a right middle finger issue, is scheduled to pitch for Double-A Akron on Saturday. White is expected to need three or four rehab outings before potentially being cleared for activation. Cleveland plans on using White as a reliever to protect his work load for the rest of this season.
The Indians haven't thrown a no-hitter since 1981, the third-longest stretch in the Majors, behind the Mets (1962) and Padres (1969), who have never thrown no-hitters in their history. Of course, the Indians are the most recent team to have a no-hitter thrown against them, as Angels righty Ervin Santana held the Tribe hitless in a 3-1 victory on Wednesday afternoon. It was the first no-hitter in the 18-year history of Progressive Field and the first thrown against Cleveland since the Yankees' Jim Abbott hurled one on Sept. 4, 1993 in New York.
The pitchers are holding up their end lately, but to no avail. Over the last nine games, Indians starters have posted a 1.96 ERA, allowing just 13 earned runs, but have just two wins to show for it. That's because the Indians have batted just .174 (43-for-247) over the last eight games, scoring 2.25 runs per contest in that span.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.