5/22/2013 8:35 P.M. ET
Lineup depth key to Tribe's surge
By Mark Emery / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Lineup depth is something the Indians have in bunches.
It's evident when Yan Gomes or Ryan Raburn comes off the bench and hits a home run, and it's illustrated by how the lineup continues to produce even when some of its key components are slumping at the plate.
Mark Reynolds and Carlos Santana, for example, have faltered offensively over the past few weeks, but you'd never realize based on the Indians' recent output and ensuing wins.
Reynolds is hitting .143 (7-for-49) over his past 15 games and Santana is batting .161 (10-for-62) during the past 18 games. Since May 4, though, the Indians have gone 13-5 while averaging 4.78 runs per game.
"It's a rarity when you have everybody hot at the same time, and that's why you don't juggle the lineup too much, in my opinion," manager Terry Francona said. "Some guys do. I don't like to do that. I think you line them up kind of the way you think they should be and then you let them play."
Reynolds' average has gone from .300 to .248 while Santana's has dropped to .290 from .395.
"Mark had a little bit of a tough trip, but it seemed like every hit he got was a huge hit," Francona said. "The hits he got were huge in our wins. That says a lot.
"I think the wear and tear of being a catcher catches up with guys. Carlos was so hot that it's hard to keep up that pace, especially when you're a catcher."
The fortified lineup is pleasing to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who said it's deeper now than it has been in recent seasons. Kipnis batted .163 (8-for-49) in the first 12 games of the year, but stayed in the lineup and has since raised his average to .257.
"One through nine, we have a lot of good hitters in there that are capable of many different things," Kipnis said. "We don't have to rely on our big power guys to be the only ones who drive in runs. We have a lot of other guys who can do that. We have speed that can create runs for us. We have a lot of hitters who can work counts.
"I just think we have so many more ways that we're capable of scoring now that you don't really notice as much when one or two guys are slumping."
Kazmir's revival still a process in the making
CLEVELAND -- The revival of Scott Kazmir is still a process in the making.
At times this season, the Indians' left-hander has displayed the type of nasty stuff that made him an All-Star in Tampa Bay. During other stretches, though, Kazmir has looked like a pitcher trying to find his way in the midst of his first full Major League season since 2010 -- which, coincidentally, is exactly what he is.
"I'm kind of working in between my starts to try to stay fresh and kind of develop a routine for this year," Kazmir said. "Stuff that's worked for me in the past is not going to work for me right now, just because of being out of the game for so long and then just coming right back into it."
Kazmir is still acclimating himself to the demands that life in a pitching rotation demands. He said the time off prior to each of his last two outings seemed to arrive quickly, and that was reflected on the field. Kazmir went 0-1 and lasted a combined eight innings. He allowed 13 hits and nine runs while walking four and striking out five. The lefty compiled a 10.13 ERA, let opponents hit .371 off him and threw 61 percent of his pitches for strikes.
"The last two just didn't really go my way," Kazmir said. "I never really got into a groove. It's just kind of the way it goes sometimes. You don't have your best stuff pretty much all the time, but you've got to go out there and battle. That's what I tried to do the last couple starts."
In the three starts prior to that recent stretch, however, Kazmir enjoyed significantly more success on the mound. In 17 innings, he went 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA, allowing 15 hits and five runs while walking three and notching 21 strikeouts. He held opponents to a .231 batting average and 69 percent of his pitches went for strikes.
"Everything was just in sync," Kazmir said. "Everything felt good. I feel like I started figuring out some stuff.
"With these last two starts, I took a couple steps back. But at the same time, I feel good, I feel fine -- just trying to keep it going."
Kazmir's next start will come Saturday at Fenway Park, a stadium he enjoys pitching in. On the season, he's 2-2 with a 6.35 ERA.
Francona set for Fenway return
CLEVELAND -- With Indians manager Terry Francona making his first visit to Boston as the skipper of another club, there's one thing he doesn't want to get lost in all the commotion.
"I'm proud to go back there as an Indian," Francona said.
Francona, of course, managed the Red Sox from 2004-11. Under his leadership, Boston won the World Series twice, in '04 and '07. In eight seasons, Francona posted a 744-552 managerial record.
The Indians will begin a four-game series in Boston on Thursday. Francona's role as an ESPN analyst brought him back to Fenway Park in the year following his tumultuous departure from the Red Sox, but he admitted he doesn't know what to expect when he steps out onto the field in a visitor's uniform.
"I'm sure I'll have a lot of emotions," he said, "This game is tough enough to play and I don't want our guys having extra baggage during that series. I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I'm having, I'll deal with them. Like I said, it's hard enough to play this game."
Francona said his year away from managing was healthy. His return to Fenway will be difficult to bear only "if we lose."
Quote to note
"Sometimes, as I get older. Yeah. Sometimes when I don't want to. Yeah. Like when Swish [Nick Swisher] called me the other night about the baby and I was like -- I caught myself -- I was laying in bed and I was like tearing up. I'm like, 'What the [heck] is wrong with you?'" -- Indians manager Terry Francona after being asked whether he's an emotional person.
• Nick Swisher, the Indians' newest father, will come off the paternity list and join the team by Thursday, when the Tribe begins a four-game series in Boston. Swisher and his wife, JoAnna, welcomed a daughter to the world on Tuesday.
Swisher was supposed to be recognized for his $25,000 donation to the FBI Citizens Academy Foundation prior to Wednesday's game, but the birth of his baby girl pushed the ceremony back to Thursday, May 30. On that day, the child identification kits that Swisher funded will be distributed outside Section 155 at Progressive Field.
• Injured starter Brett Myers made a rehab appearance on Wednesday with Double-A Akron. In 4 1/3 innings, he allowed two hits and three earned runs. He walked four, struck out two, threw a wild pitch and hit a batter.
Myers is on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. In four starts with the Indians this season, Myers is 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA.
• Dating back to the second game of the April 28 doubleheader in Kansas City, the Indians' starting rotation is 13-5 with a 3.29 ERA. During that span, a stretch of 23 games, the staff's ERA has fallen from 5.72 to 4.37. Cleveland's starters have held opponents to three runs or fewer in 19 of those outings and the team is 18-5 over that period.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.