08/07/12 7:10 PM ET
Amid team's struggles, Santana delivering with bat
By Justin Albers / MLB.com
But one of the few bright spots in a rough stretch for the Tribe has been catcher Carlos Santana's improvement at the plate. Santana had a rough first half of the season after signing a five-year, $21 million extension in April. He had only five home runs and 30 RBIs in the first 74 games this year after hitting 27 homers a season ago.
In the last three weeks, though, Santana has gotten hot. Entering Tuesday's game against the Twins, the switch-hitter was hitting .302 with six doubles, seven home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 19 games. Santana has also walked 13 times during the stretch while striking out only 10 times.
"I feel more comfortable," Santana said. "I know I didn't have a good first half, but I think I've come in more comfortable and more focused in the second half.
"Early in the season, I had problems with swinging too hard and trying too much. Right now, I'm taking it easier and trying to just make contact with the ball."
Indians manager Manny Acta said the coaching staff has continued to work with Santana on limiting his body movement at the plate, and Acta has seen some progress. Santana entered Tuesday hitting .237 with 12 homers, 49 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .364 on the season.
"He's been having better at-bats, walking more, seeing the ball better," Acta said. "We all know when he's in that type of groove, the power numbers will be there from both sides of the plate."
Lopez designated for assignment
CLEVELAND -- Jose Lopez served as the Indians' cleanup hitter in 20 games this season. On Tuesday, the Tribe designated him for assignment for the second time. To fill Lopez's roster spot, Cleveland recalled right-handed reliever Frank Herrmann from Triple-A Columbus.
Lopez became the fourth veteran player the Indians have designated within the last week, joining outfielder Johnny Damon and pitchers Derek Lowe and Jeremy Accardo. The Indians entered Tuesday's game on a 10-game losing streak, and they were 10 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago in the American League Central.
Lopez, who appeared mostly at third base for Cleveland, hit .249 with four home runs and 28 RBIs in 66 games this season. He had struggled of late, though, hitting just .197 with no homers and one RBI in 22 games since July 4. The Indians have 10 days to trade Lopez or release him.
"Tough call. He's been very serviceable," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Lopez. "He was a very good teammate, and he has filled a role for us, but we had no choice. We had to do it. Our bullpen is just not in very good shape right now."
The Indians pitching staff has been beaten up during the team's current skid, and Acta said several of his relievers were unavailable on Tuesday. Starter Zach McAllister lasted only 1 2/3 innings in Monday's loss, and the Indians were forced to use five different pitchers out of the bullpen.
That's why Cleveland opted to play with one less position player and call up Herrmann, who will serve as a long reliever for the Indians. Acta said Herrmann was available to go two or three innings on Tuesday night if needed.
"That's why he's here," Acta said.
Herrmann had spent the entire 2012 season with Columbus, where he went 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA and seven saves in 39 relief appearances. The 28-year-old made 40 appearances for the Indians last season, posting a 5.11 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings. Herrmann was averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings for Columbus.
"He has been working on a spike curve down there, and [Columbus pitching coach] Ruben [Niebla] feels it's been a pretty decent pitch for him," Acta said. "They were looking for a pitch with some depth that he can use against left-handed hitters. They're very positive on his curve."
McAllister hopes to stay focused after team's errors
CLEVELAND -- Zach McAllister thought he had minimized the damage for the Indians in the second inning Tuesday night.
With the Tribe trailing just 2-1, McAllister got Minnesota's Denard Span to ground to Jason Kipnis at second base. Kipnis threw to first baseman Carlos Santana who couldn't make the play and was charged with the error. The Twins wound up scoring 10 runs in the frame.
Unfortunately for McAllister, Monday's game was hardly the first time he has had trouble bouncing back from a defensive miscue. The 24-year-old McAllister leads the Major Leagues with 18 unearned runs allowed this season, five more than Tampa Bay's James Shields. McAllister has allowed that damage in only 70 innings of work, while Shields has logged 146.1 frames.
"It could [be an issue]," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "People have to be able to turn the page, especially when they're here. A guy makes an error, you've got to pick him up. That's what happens with the fielders, too. When a guy walks a guy, they make a play for him. Hopefully, that's not the case. We've seen that a couple of times, but he just didn't make good pitches at all."
McAllister has pitched like the staff's ace ever since he was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on June 28, but he has allowed several big innings following errors.
In a game against the Rays before the All-Star break, the right-hander cruised into the sixth inning with a shutout. But after a couple of miscues by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, McAllister allowed a four-run inning, and the Indians eventually lost the game.
McAllister maintains that the errors don't affect his composure on the mound, but he's allowed at least one unearned run in five of his last seven starts.
"You just try to focus on the hitter that you've got to get out and do what you can to get out of the inning," McAllister said. "That's about all you really try to focus on.
"It's definitely frustrating for me. I'm not happy with it, especially being a guy that wants to pick up his teammates and has that type of pride in himself to pick guys up."
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day on Tuesday with back stiffness. Acta said he expects Hafner to be ready to play on Wednesday, but if he's not, he'll have to undergo more tests.
Luis DeJesus, a right-handed pitcher for Class A Mahoning Valley, was named the Indians Minor League Player of the Week on Tuesday. The 20-year-old DeJesus went 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts last week, and he is 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA in nine starts this season. DeJesus was the Indians' 11th-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis was named the winner of the Indians' Heart and Hustle Award on Tuesday. The final winner will be announced from the 30 preliminary winners November 13 at the 13th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore won the award in 2008.
The Indians are offering fans the opportunity to eat "Dinner on the Diamond" at Progressive Field. On Sept. 7, fans will have a chance to enjoy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in the dugout before eating dinner on the warning track. For more information, visit indians.com/hostedevents.
Quote to note
"What it's going to take for us is either a well-pitched ball game or just a 10-run effort -- I don't know what it's gonna take to be honest with you. We're looking for anything to happen right now, and it's just not happening."
--Indians reliever Josh Tomlin on the team's 10-game losing streak.
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.