05/01/12 7:55 PM ET
Choo expected back in lineup on Wednesday
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Cleveland held Choo out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game, but the club improvised when it came to his pregame workout. The right fielder went through a series of running and agility drills in the outfield and manager Manny Acta expressed optimism about being able to put Choo back in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
"I'm anticipating that he's going to start tomorrow," Acta said prior to Tuesday's game against the White Sox.
Choo exited a 4-3 victory over the Royals on April 24 in the eighth inning after having pain in his left hamstring. The outfielder has progressed through a number of drills and tests over the past few days, but running the bases was one of the final hurdles heading into Tuesday.
Acta noted that Choo was not cleared to start on Tuesday, but the right fielder was available off the bench for the Tribe.
"He needed one more day," Acta said. "If it wasn't for the weather, we probably were going to have him run the bases and do all the normal stuff that you do during batting practice."
With Choo still sidelined, the Indians gave backup outfielder Aaron Cunningham the nod in right field for the opener of a three-game set on Tuesday. Cunningham started the previous six games for the Cleveland, hitting .300 (6-for-20) with two RBIs.
Choo is hitting .237 with five doubles and nine RBIs through 15 games for the Indians.
Schedule impacts decision to designate Lopez
CHICAGO -- With a daunting schedule ahead, the Indians wanted to make sure their outfield depth was plentiful. That played a large role in Tuesday's decision to designate utility infielder Jose Lopez for assignment.
That move opened a roster spot for the arrival of veteran outfielder Johnny Damon.
"The decision went more into effect because of the outfield situation," Indians manager Manny Acta explained. "We need a backup center fielder and, also, we're going to play an incredible amount of games in a row in May. Very few days off.
"Those guys in the outfield are going to need breaks. We felt that having the extra outfielder was more beneficial to us right now."
Due to an upcoming makeup game with the White Sox on Monday -- part of a day-night doubleheader to account for the April 10 rainout in Cleveland -- the Indians will play 21 games in 20 days out of the gates in May. Under the circumstances, Acta wanted the flexibility of giving a day off here or there to one of his regulars.
Damon will garner most of his playing time in left field, but Shelley Duncan is also an option for the position. Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo are the regular center fielder and right fielder, respectively. On the bench is Aaron Cunningham, who can play all three positions, and is currently the only true backup to Brantley in center.
Lopez, who made the team out of Spring Training, offered insurance at first, second and third base, along with designated hitter. Duncan can also play first and DH, while utility man Jason Donald can serve as a backup for second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield.
The Indians have 10 days to either trade or release Lopez, or the club could re-assign him to a Minor League affiliate if he clears waivers. The 28-year-old Lopez -- signed to a Minor League contract over the winter and brought to camp this past spring as a non-roster invitee -- hit .190 in five games for the Tribe in April.
"It was a very tough decision," Acta said. "I like Jose and he was a very good teammate and I feel like he could help us. But, it is a numbers game."
Quote to note
"I think anybody you ask would really want to get to 3,000 hits. Has it ever been a top priority for me? No, it has not. Winning baseball games has always been the top priority. Getting to the playoffs, winning championships, that's the most important thing. I'm never going to put myself above any other player to obtain it. If it happens, it does. If not, I know I've had a great career."
-- Indians outfielder Johnny Damon, who has 2,723 career hits
On Tuesday, the Indians named Class A (low) Lake County outfielder Luigi Rodriguez the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for April 23-29. In that span, the 19-year-old Rodriguez hit .556 (10-for-18) with two home runs, one triple and five RBIs in four games.
Entering Tuesday, the Indians had not launched a home run in 11 consecutive games, marking the longest power outage by the club since a 14-game homerless streak from April 10-27 1983. Carlos Santana belted the Tribe's last long ball in the fifth inning of a 9-8 win over the Mariners on April 17.
Cleveland headed into Tuesday's action with the second-best road record (7-2) in the Majors, trailing only the Rangers (9-1). The Indians won each of their first three road series to open the year, marking the first time since 1988 that the club had accomplished that feat.