4/22/2014 12:40 A.M. ET
Carrasco to work through struggles in rotation
By Jordan Bastian and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes the easy thing to do would be to pull the plug on using Carlos Carrasco in the rotation. What Francona thinks makes more sense is weathering the current storm and seeing if Carrasco can realize his potential.
During Sunday's 6-4 win over the Blue Jays, Carrasco labored when he got into the fourth and fifth innings -- and Cleveland needed a comeback in order to claim the victory. Prior to the mid-game meltdown, the right-hander opened his outing with three perfect innings.
"That's why we are trying to be as patient as possible, because that is there," Francona said. "The easiest thing to do is give up. If there's a day when we think he can help us more in the bullpen, we would do that. It's probably like that with any pitcher. But, right now, we'd like to see him try to extend those first three innings."
The 27-year-old Carrasco was sharp as a reliever last season, turning in a 1.32 ERA in his eight appearances (13 2/3 innings). As a starter, his troubles have been prolonged. Carrasco has gone 0-11 with an 8.28 ERA (73 earned runs in 79 2/3 innings) and a 1.98 WHIP in 16 starts since last winning a game as a starter for Cleveland on June 29, 2011.
It is fair to note that Carrasco missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so some of the right-hander's struggles late in '11 and in '13 as a starter might relate to the injury and subsequent comeback. This year, however, he is healthy and has opened with an 0-2 record and 7.31 ERA in 16 innings.
In the first three innings of his three outings, batters have posted a .257 average and .754 OPS against Carrasco. Those numbers spike to a .357 average and .863 OPS in between the fourth and sixth innings. That trend holds true for Carrasco's career, too. He has allowed a .276 average and .785 OPS in the first three innings, compared to a .338 average and .921 OPS between the fourth and sixth frames.
Francona said Sunday's outing was not a make-or-break start for Carrasco. The same goes for the next time the right-hander toes the rubber.
"To be honest with you, I don't think we would ever do that," Francona said. "If we ever made a change with somebody -- anybody -- it would never come down to one start or one at-bat. That would make no sense to me. I do think there's times when you have to make a change because of a start, or a bullpen appearance or an injury, but I don't think we would ever make a decision based on a start.
"Too much is riding -- and too many innings and too many at-bats -- to put it on [one game]. That's why we didn't have like a pitch-off in Spring Training. That's why we meet all the time and talk, so we know how we feel."
Tribe activates Giambi from DL; Wood optioned
CLEVELAND -- The Indians finally have their bench aligned as they initially planned. Prior to Monday's 4-3 win over the Royals, Cleveland activated veteran Jason Giambi from the disabled list after his comeback from a fractured rib in his right side.
In order to clear room on the active roster for Giambi, the Indians optioned right-handed reliever Blake Wood to Triple-A Columbus. With Wood out of the mix, manager Terry Francona has returned to a more traditional seven-man bullpen.
Giambi was slotted in the seventh spot in Monday's starting lineup as Cleveland's designated hitter and went 0-for-4.
"He means a lot to what we do," Francona said before the game. "Having him back is really good. You guys know this, but he's one of the more special people that we've all been around. So, to have him back fighting with us is a good feeling."
The 43-year-old Giambi will rejoin the bench in the same role he held last season for the club. The slugger will serve as a part-time designated hitter, pinch-hitter and clubhouse presence. Giambi excelled as a late-inning hitting specialist for the Tribe last summer.
While Giambi posted only a .183 average with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 71 games overall last season, he turned in a 1.181 OPS in the ninth inning. He also hit at a .271 clip with a .960 OPS with runners in scoring position last year.
On March 7, Giambi was struck in the right side by a pitch from Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson. Giambi sustained a non-displaced fracture of a rib and opened the regular season on the 15-day disabled list.
"I'm excited to be part of the ballclub again," Giambi said. "The first one is always where the adrenaline is kicking. You're excited to be playing and then you get into the Groundhog Day of being part of the ballclub. It'll be good to get the first one out of the way."
With Giambi on the 15-day DL to begin the year, Francona was able to utilize an eight-man bullpen.
Wood underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2012, but Cleveland claimed him off waivers that November and gave him all of last season to rehab his arm. This past spring, the hard-throwing right-hander earned a spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
In seven appearances out of the bullpen, though, Wood turned in a 7.11 ERA in 6 1/3 innings, walking as many hitters as he struck out: seven. In 115 career outings between stints with the Royals and Indians, the 28-year-old Wood has a 4.39 ERA in parts of four seasons.
"His stuff is tremendous," Francona said. "Actually, up until the end of Spring Training, I probably fell on the side of starting him in Triple-A, because I think his ceiling is so high and he can help us, and I was afraid that coming out of the gate there'd be some inconsistent work and maybe we'd see what we did.
"But, in fairness to him, the last two weeks of Spring Training, I don't know if a guy put a bat on the ball. It would've been a hard send down. I think if he gets consistent work in Triple-A, he can come back and really help us. That's why we did it."
Francona gives Santana mental break vs. KC
CLEVELAND -- Even during a slump, Carlos Santana typically maintains solid plate discipline. When Indians manager Terry Francona saw Santana uncharacteristically chasing pitches on Sunday against Toronto, he felt the slumping third baseman could use a day off.
Francona provided Santana with a mental break in Monday's 4-3 win over the Royals, and instead gave third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who went 2-for-4 with a double, a one-game stint as Cleveland's cleanup hitter. Francona said that Santana's only task after his pregame workout was to relax.
"There's just a few reasons where I thought it'd be good for him," Francona said. "[It's] just because he's starting to chase some balls out of the zone. You can tell he's getting a little anxious. He's always had that volatile swing, but he stays in the zone so well. And [Sunday], he really started chasing.
"So, I thought maybe I'd give him a night to kind of take it easy and, again, get some stuff done on the field without the game hanging over your head. I think that'd be good for him."
Santana agreed that the day off could be good for him.
"I think it's for good, but if he needs me, I'm ready," Santana said. "I know I've had a little slow [start to the] season, but it's a long season. I'm a good player and I'm a good hitter. It happens. I'm fighting. I'm playing hard all the time to help my team, and I'm fighting."
Entering Monday, the switch-hitting Santana was hitting .145 with one home run, two doubles, three RBIs and 17 walks through 18 games. The third baseman and backup catcher launched a two-run home run in Friday's loss to the Blue Jays, but he headed into Monday's game mired in a 2-for-39 spell at the plate. Santana went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Sunday.
Francona said he moved Chisenhall -- Cleveland's No. 9 hitter in seven of hit 10 starts -- to the cleanup spot for a few reasons. One is the fact that the left-handed-swinging third baseman had a .448 average through 29 at-bats this season. Chisenhall also had a .500 average (5-for-10) in his career against Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie.
"He's been swinging the bat about as good as we've ever seen him," Francona said. "He's got good numbers against this guy, and it keeps everybody else in place. I think he's swinging the bat really well."
Indians' prospect Ramirez powers Columbus
CLEVELAND -- Second baseman Jose Ramirez is better known for his speed than his power. A season ago, he led the Eastern League with 38 stolen bases and often served as a pinch-runner during his stint in the Major Leagues.
But Ramirez showed he has some pop in his bat on Monday night. The Indians' No. 8 prospect, according to MLB.com, hit two home runs and helped Triple-A Columbus earn a 6-4 victory against Toledo. It was the first multi-homer game of his career.
Ramirez finished 4-for-5 with a stolen base and three RBIs. He is on a seven-game hitting streak and is hitting .333 with five stolen bases in 16 games this season. Ramirez has shown no ill-effects from the offseason thumb surgery that kept him sidelined at the start of Spring Training.
Two other members of MLB.com's Indians prospects list played key roles in Monday's win. First baseman Jesus Aguilar (No. 19) went 2-for-3 with a walk and home run, his fifth of the season. Right fielder Carlos Moncrief (No. 10) added two more hits and scored a run.
Quote to note
"We are probably a little more aggressive [defensive] shifting than we have been in the past. I think that's probably because there's more information out there now and, any time you do something on the field as a manager, you don't want to guess. That's why I laugh where somebody says [they went by] their gut. To me, the gut is making a decision knowing the information. That's a heck of a lot better way to make a decision, in my opinion."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona
• Indians outfielder Michael Brantley entered Monday's game batting .284 with a team-high three home runs and 16 RBIs. Brantley was hitting .318 with runners in scoring position and ranked sixth in the Majors with a rate of one RBI per 4.19 at-bats.
"He has one of the most comfortable looking setups I've ever seen," Francona said. "He just bounces that bat on his shoulder and he gets himself into such a good hitting position so often. He's made a lot of hard outs, too, in this period. And I don't think it's a fluke. He gives himself a chance every at-bat."
• Entering Monday, Brantley and fellow Tribe outfielder David Murphy had combined for 12 of the 17 RBIs the club had collected over its past six games. The duo accounted for 18 of the Indians' 29 RBIs over the past seven games. Murphy headed into Monday ranked third in the Majors with a rate of one RBI per 3.47 at-bats.
• The Indians entered Monday as one of only four Major League teams (joining the Reds, Rockies and Padres) without at least one extra-inning game this season. Across the big leagues, there had been 29 extra-inning games so far this season.
• Indians lefty Josh Outman warmed up to the song "Let It Go" from the animated Disney movie "Frozen" during the sixth inning of Sunday's game against the Blue Jays. Outman said he is using the song right now because his 3-year-old daughter loves the movie.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.