4/12/2014 3:00 P.M. ET
Morgan satisfied helping any way he can
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Nyjer Morgan was back in the starting lineup Saturday for the first time since Tuesday against the Padres, a span of four games in which the Indians faced all left-handed starters.
"Yeah, I'm always excited to be in the lineup, but I just come out and go about my business, cheer on my guys and every time that my name gets called up, I"ll be ready to go," said Morgan, who stole a base as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning of the second game of Cleveland's doubleheader with San Diego on Wednesday.
Morgan, who played in Japan last season after spending parts of the previous five seasons with the Pirates, National and Brewers, has impressed his new team early on. He was hitting .389 with a .520 on-base percentage, three runs scored and four RBIs in 18 at-bats entering Saturday's game.
When Michael Bourn returns from his rehab assignment, Morgan's playing time might become even more sporadic. He said he understood that was the case when he signed with the Indians and is excited for Bourn to return.
"Like I said, I'm just holding down the fort until he gets back, and then whatever my role is from there, I'll make it happen," Morgan said. "If they want me to come off the bench and do what I got to do to get us a quick run in later innings or come in as a defensive replacement, I'm all for it."
Morgan said he's been around the game long enough to know how to prepare himself physically and mentally for long layoffs between starts and coming off the bench. It's nothing new for the speedy veteran.
"If you look at my track record, I've always done stuff like this," he said. "For me, I just go about the game, I play the game right. This is what I do; I just try to help my team any way I can."
Bourn taking more time on rehab assignment
CHICAGO --- Indians outfielder Michael Bourn went 1-for-5 with a walk and stolen base in his second rehab start with Double-A Akron Friday night. He was replaced defensively in the 10th inning of the 13-inning game, but it was the second straight game in which Bourn played nine innings.
Bourn had originally hoped to rejoin the Tribe on Sunday, the first day he's eligible to come off the DL, but Indians manager Terry Francona said Bourn will rest Saturday and play another rehab game on Sunday.
"He had a pretty good night physically," Francona said. "Still thinks another game is in his best interests, and I appreciate his honesty. I've been on him from the beginning that when we get him back, we want to get him back where he can change the game with his legs and not be thinking about it. He'll play Sunday, and then we'll go from there."
It was encouraging to see Bourn do what he does best and steal a base Friday night. It was an important step for him to test his hamstring in a full-out sprinting situation that required response from fast-twitch muscles in his rehabbing hamstring.
"I think he's feeling pretty good," Francona said. "The last thing is being able to get to that last gear and not have to think about it. That will be when he's ready to go."
Jason Giambi, who is rehabbing from a broken rib suffered early in Spring Training, joined Bourn in the lineup on Friday as the designated hitter. Giambi went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a walk before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Giambi will mostly be counted on as a power left-handed bat off the bench in key late-game situations. Francona said the club isn't worried about simulating that scenario during Giambi's rehab.
"No, he'll get regular at-bats," Francona said. "It's hard to send a guy, especially a 43-year-old veteran, down to the Minor Leagues to pinch-hit. Getting his at-bats will be more beneficial"
Santana shining defensively at third
CHICAGO -- Terry Francona already had plenty of faith in Carlos Santana's ability to make a smooth transition from catcher and first base to third. But even he has been impressed with Santana's ability to flash the leather at the hot corner.
"I thought he played a nice game last night. I think the biggest thing is, he didn't look like a catcher," Francona said. "I know we're just 11 games into the season, but I don't get asked questions about him. I think what he's done is actually phenomenal."
Santana indeed looked like a natural third baseman in Friday's game. In the third, he snagged a sharply hit one-hop grounder off the bat of Alexei Ramirez by backing up and backhanding the ball, and then he made a strong throw across the diamond. It was one of several pretty plays Santana made on the night.
With the emergence of Yan Gomes behind the plate, finding another place to get Santana's bat in the lineup became a necessity. Entering Saturday's game, Santana had played six games at third, three as the designated hitter and two at catcher, where he started Saturday. The rotation between positions helps reduce the stress catching puts on Santana's body.
"I like it, it's good and I'm playing very well there, so I feel good and like it," Santana said. "I think it's like, I worked so hard in Spring Training, and I'm just happy how I look natural."
Francona said Santana took ground balls every day of Spring Training except one and was on board with changing positions when the Indians approached him midway through camp.
"When a guy looks at you and says, 'I'll do anything I can to help you guys win,' especially when he's your cleanup hitter, that's nice to hear," Francona said.
Even with Santana's dedication to excelling at the position, Francona called Santana's progression at third the "best-case scenario."
"I think he's underrated. I think his athleticism is underrated," Francona said. "For him to be able to go behind the plate and do what he does is not easy. He's a pretty athletic kid. He's done a good job. I think he's liking it. I think he's enjoying it."
Quote to note
"You think about that, what are they going to do, pull guys up from the Minor Leagues? Chicago has five pitchers and the righty Johnson pitched the day before we got here, so that's just the way it goes. San Diego had two." -- Francona, when asked if he thought teams were purposely stacking their left-handers against the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup.
• Francona said Friday night's starter, Carlos Carrasco, will be available in the bullpen this week and will start next Saturday. Every other starter will take their normal turn in the rotation. If Carrasco isn't used by Tuesday or Wednesday, he'll throw a side session to stay fresh for the next start.
• The Indians fell to 1-4 against left-handed starters with last night's loss to Sox starter Chris Sale. The Tribe entered Saturday's game hitting .207 with a .572 OPS against southpaws.
• The Indians are currently carrying eight relief pitchers, which is nothing new for Francona, who likes to use his bullpen. Cleveland's bullpen pitched 516 2/3 relief innings last season and through 11 games this season, leads the American League with 38 2/3.
The idea is to not overwhelm them," Francona said. "You take whatever team you have and you try to win. If you're going to lead the league in appearances, you want guys who can get outs. I've never been real big on trying to have the long guy to mop up the games you're going to lose. I'd rather try to piece it together."
• Tribe pitchers have averaged 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings (108 in 96 innings), tops in the AL and second in the Majors to only the Washington Nationals' 11 K/9 IP mark.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.