06/06/12 11:10 PM ET
Refreshed Damon returns from paternity leave
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Wednesday, Damon was activated from three-day paternity leave and was in the Tribe's starting lineup against the Tigers as the sixth hitter and left fielder. Despite Damon's struggles over the past month, the Indians plan on giving him an opportunity to return to his former level of performance.
"He's gone through everything in the game already," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It wouldn't be very realistic to believe that, after the season he had last year, that it's all gone. It's about getting the at-bats and seeing if the results will be there."
To clear room on the roster for Damon, the Tribe optioned catcher Luke Carlin to Triple-A Columbus.
Entering Wednesday's game, the 38-year-old Damon was hitting just .180 (16-for-89) with four extra-base hits, five RBIs and a .270 on-base percentage through 25 games for Cleveland. It has been one of the ugliest stretches of the outfielder's 18 seasons in the Majors, possibly making his recent hiatus well timed.
Damon left the team on Sunday to spend time at home after the birth of twin daughters, Dasha and Daliah. The Damons now have five daughters among their six children -- a fact that forces a smile from the outfielder.
"It's exciting -- until 10 years from now when the house is full of estrogen," Damon quipped. "I guess it's somebody's way of getting me back for being an outstanding gentleman all my years."
Kidding aside, the three-day respite from the Indians provided important time with his family and also offered the struggling outfielder a mental break.
"It's another start for me," Damon said. "I understand I need to get it going. Playing time is very important for me, but we also need to worry about trying to win ballgames. Hopefully I'm in that equation as the season progresses."
Damon pointed to a similar slump in 2001, when he was with the A's. That season, he hit .211 with a .286 on-base percentage in the first 67 games before hitting .290 with a .352 OBP over the course of his final 88 games.
"I'm notoriously a slow starter," Damon said. "I know in Oakland in 2001, first new team and you get into the 'Moneyball' stuff about taking pitches and all that stuff, I buried myself for the first couple months."
Of course, Damon was 11 years younger at the time.
This time around, Damon did not have the benefit of a normal Spring Training, signing with the Indians in late April before joining the club on May 2 after a two-week stint in extended spring training. The outfielder is well beyond the number of at-bats a player typically gets in the preseason, and he admitted to tinkering too much to date.
"When you come here and you struggle right off the bat," Damon said, "you start trying to change a few things and try to get that comfort feel that you thought you had before. Everything feels great in [batting practice]. The ball is right there and there's no pressure. All in all, I probably should've stuck to how I did feel getting here.
"I felt really good and then I started changing, and then I got myself off of how I should feel. And here I am, scuffling on June 6. I plan to fight to get better and help this team out."
After being slotted into the lineup as the Tribe's first baseman against left-handed starters on Sunday and Tuesday, Matt LaPorta got the nod as the designated hitter for Wednesday's game against Detroit. Casey Kotchman, a lefty hitter, started at first with Tigers righty Max Scherzer on the hill. Indians manager Manny Acta said, however, that LaPorta and Kotchman are not in a strict platoon at first base.
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and second baseman Jason Kipnis occupied the second and third spots, respectively, in the lineup on Wednesday. It marked the second game in a row they filled those roles after being in the opposite spots for much of the season. Acta said he wanted to have Cabrera (a switch hitter) between leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo and Kipnis, who are both lefty hitters.
On Wednesday, the Indians claimed right-hander Chris Schwinden off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned the pitcher to Triple-A Columbus. Schwinden, 25, has gone 3-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 10 starts between Triple-A Las Vegas (Toronto) and Triple-A Buffalo (Mets). He posted a 12.46 ERA in three games for the Mets this year.
Indians third baseman Jose Lopez, who was scratched from the lineup on Tuesday due to lower back soreness, remained out of the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Tigers. Acta said Lopez was available off the bench.