04/09/12 7:10 PM ET
Regulars get some rest after long opening set
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"It's mostly because of the amount of innings we have played," Acta explained. "When you leave Arizona or Florida, you don't prepare these guys to play 28 innings in the first two games and 37 in three. It was a grueling series."
The Indians and Blue Jays engaged in a 16-inning marathon on Opening Day on Thursday, marking the longest season opener in baseball history. Then, the clubs played 12 innings on Saturday, representing the first time since 1969 that any teams needed at least that many frames to finish the first two games of a season.
Helping make Acta's decision to switch things up was the fact that left-hander Chris Sale was starting for the White Sox. Under the circumstances, Acta gave left fielder Michael Brantley, designated hitter Travis Hafner, first baseman Casey Kotchman and third baseman Jack Hannahan -- all left-handed batters -- the day off from starting.
Jason Donald got the nod at third base and filled in for Brantley in the leadoff spot, while Jose Lopez started at first base and was placed in the fifth slot. Aaron Cunningham started in center field and Lou Marson was behind the plate, respectively. Regular catcher Carlos Santana slid into the DH role for the Indians.
"It's the beginning of the season," Acta said. "And, it's also a combination of facing a guy [Sale] who can be very tough on some of our left-handers. It's too bad you don't have a bigger roster like in Spring Training."
Donald -- a backup option for second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield -- was thrilled to be in the starting lineup for the first time this season. The utility man said he headed into the year knowing he would probably start mostly against lefty pitchers. On the days he comes off the bench, Donald has developed an in-game routine for staying fresh.
"I had a good idea that this was the type of role I'd be in," said Donald, who hit .377 against left-handers last season. "I'm excited. No matter if I'm in the lineup when a righty is throwing or a lefty is throwing, I try to keep the same approach with my at-bats and the style of play and whatnot. But I'm definitely excited."
Lopez -- who made the Opening Day roster as a backup option for first, second and third base -- is a former American League All-Star, whose best season (2009) included 25 home runs, 42 doubles and 96 RBIs for the Mariners. After a couple of down seasons, Lopez is trying to adjust to being a part-time player for the Tribe.
"That's what we're looking for," Acta said. "I know that he's still very young and given an opportunity, he might become the guy he was two or three years ago. That's not the case here, but we're trying to envision him as that guy that can be very valuable for us coming off the bench. ... It's a tough role to handle, but he knows that's what's in front of him here."
Pestano pleased with quick redemption
CLEVELAND -- Relievers are trained to have short memories, but nothing helps more than having a good outing as soon as possible in the wake of a bad one.
In that sense, Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano was happy he was able to have a critical appearance in Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. With two runners aboard and one out in the eighth inning, the right-hander entered and struck out Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie to end a threatening Toronto rally.
"That was pretty much the game plan going out there," Pestano said. "I didn't want to give them any opportunity to try to put the ball in play and flick something between the infielders or over somebody's head."
Pestano also wanted to quickly move on from his previous appearance.
On Saturday afternoon, Pestano entered in the ninth inning with Cleveland and Toronto stuck in a 2-2 tie. Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson slugged a leadoff homer off Pestano in the ninth -- a misstep that helped lead to a tiring 12-inning game.
"You're only going to be as good as your last outing," said Pestano, who had a 2.32 ERA with 84 strikeouts as a rookie last year. "So the quicker you can get a bad one behind you, the better it is. You try not to let [the rough outings] affect you, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't kind of stick with you."
After striking out Lawrie to end the eighth inning on Sunday, Pestano let out a yell and pumped his fists as he left the field.
"To get out there and contribute in a positive way to the team," Pestano said, "you can't really get much better than that. Putting the team in that situation [on Saturday] and then coming in the next day to get a chance to redeem myself, that was huge."
Quick start a good sign for Hannahan
CLEVELAND -- One of Jack Hannahan's goals for this season with the Indians is to prove that he is a better hitter than his career numbers indicate. Cleveland is confident that the third baseman has the ability to accomplish that this year.
"We've always felt that he is a better offensive player than what his numbers show," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He showed flashes of it last year. In Spring Training, he kind of showed a better approach at the plate, too. We're not saying he's all of a sudden going to become Wade Boggs, but we do feel that he can be a better hitter."
Hannahan once again showed his potential on Opening Day on Thursday, launching a home run in Cleveland's 7-4, 16-inning loss to Toronto. Three games into the season, the third baseman also tops the Indians with four RBIs. It might be just one series, but it was a good way for Hannahan to start his season.
"It's great," said Hannahan, who was hitting .250 through three games. "I worked hard in this offseason trying to maintain [my swing] and I came into Spring Training swinging the bat well. It felt good to come in and feel good in the box and put some good swings on the ball."
Last season, the 32-year-old Hannahan hit .250 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 110 games for the Indians overall, but he enjoyed an especially strong finish. After switching to a heavier bat, the third baseman hit .368 over his final 25 games from Aug. 13 through the end of the season.
Hannahan's Opening Day home run was his second in a row in Cleveland's season opener. The third baseman now has three Opening Day blasts in his career.
"Did I hit one last year? That was on Opening Day?" Hannahan said with a laugh. "I don't hit a lot of them, but I'll take any of them."
Quote to note
"Get more hits, but sometimes you can't control that. In baseball, you can do everything right at the plate sometimes and then you can square up the ball and there are eight guys with gloves back there waiting to catch it. It's too early for me to be judging our offense."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, asked what improvement he'd like the offense to make
Indians manager Manny Acta said starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who remains sequestered in the Dominican Republic while awaiting a new visa from the United States, continues to train at the team's baseball academy in his home country. Acta said Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) has built up to 85 pitches.
"I talked to him [on Sunday]," Acta said. "He wanted me to tell you hello -- to every single one of you guys. Obviously, he's getting a little antsy back home and he wants to get over here, but it's totally out of his or our hands."
Acta said the Indians are optimistic about Hernandez's chances of receiving a visa so he can rejoin the team at some point this season.
"Yeah, everybody is," Acta said. "But he knows it's out of his control."
On Sunday, Indians catcher Carlos Santana became the fifth player in franchise history to enjoy a multihomer day on his birthday. The others include Albert Belle (1995), Joe Azcue (1963), Ray Boone (1951) and Earl Averill (1934). According to STATS LLC, there have been 46 players to accomplish the feat in baseball history.
The Indians entered Monday hitting just .153 as a team, but the club also had an American League-leading 20 walks. "That's very important," Acta said. "I do feel that we've had some good at-bats. Just because the hits weren't there doesn't mean that you didn't have good at-bats."