4/27/2014 5:25 P.M. ET
Top of Indians' batting order heating up
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- For much of this month, it has been the bottom of the Indians' lineup that has carried the offensive load. Over the past week, the batting order's opening trio of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis have started firing on all cylinders as well.
"We know we have a good-hitting team, man," Bourn said prior to Sunday's game against the Giants. "We know we can hit the baseball up and down the lineup -- one through nine."
During Saturday's 5-3 loss to San Francisco, Bourn, Swisher and Kipnis -- who occupy lineup spots one, two and three, respectively -- went a combined 5-for-15 with three extra-base hits, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Bourn, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list April 15 after a left hamstring injury, headed into Sunday's game with a .370 (10-for-27) average, three extra-base hits, three runs and three RBIs in his past six games.
Entering Sunday, Swisher was batting .360 (9-for-25) with five doubles, two RBIs, two walks and three runs over his last six games played for the Tribe. Over his last nine games, the first baseman was batting at a .333 clip.
Over his last nine games entering Sunday, Kipnis had hit .314 (11-for-35) with a homer, three doubles, five RBIs, three walks and four runs scored.
"Bourny is certainly feeling better about himself," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think Swish is still not maybe in midseason form, but when he's getting a pitch now, he's hitting it. I think you'll see, as he gets more into the year, you'll see him make more adjustments. I think that's kind of typical.
"Kip is fine. His batting average will move up, but he's fine. Every time he's up, he's got a chance. He's a legitimate [hitter]. Kip has kind of gotten to that point with me where, sometimes when he makes an out, I'm surprised. That's not fair, but that's probably how much I think of him as a hitter."
Indians weigh in on Interleague hitting rules
SAN FRANCISCO -- Zach McAllister now has two baseballs in his personal collection. The Indians starter already had a ball from his first win in the Major Leagues. On Saturday, McAllister added one for his first career hit in the big leagues.
In the second inning of Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Giants, McAllister pushed a pitch from Giants righty Tim Lincecum into right field for a single. In the ninth inning, fellow Indians pitcher Corey Kluber came off the bench and served a pinch-runner for veteran Jason Giambi.
Welcome to another edition of Interleague Play.
"Some guys really enjoy it," McAllister said. "Other guys really have no opinion on it. They just do it because they have to. Other guys really don't like it. To me, I enjoy it. I think it's fun. It's nice to be able to go to different parks and play different teams as well. It's part of the beauty of being able to be in the big leagues."
McAllister also enjoyed getting that first career knock after going 0-for-4 in 2013.
"It was a pretty cool moment for me," he said.
Interleague Play is a fixure in the Major League schedule these days, but that does not mean it is any less of a challenge for American League pitchers. Indians manager Terry Francona, who has managed both in the National League (Phillies) and AL (Red Sox and Indians), believes the AL teams face more of an uphill battle under NL rules.
"It's a disadvantage," Francona said. "Now, saying that, when they come to our place, it's a disadvantage. I think it's probably less so for them. I know back even when I was with the Phillies, even though we weren't a high-payroll team, it was an opportunity to get somebody at-bats, which is good. The guy that's going to [be the designated hitter] is used to hitting.
"Your pitchers, not only are they pitchers, but they haven't been asked to [hit regularly]. So it's a huge disadvantage. You're asking a guy to maybe once a year try to get a bunt down or get a hit; it's probably one of my least favorite things about [Interleague]."
The bunting issue came into play in the fourth inning, when McAllister squared around and tapped a pitch with runners on first and second. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt charged in, gloved the ball and quickly fired it to third base, initiating an inning-ending double play.
"That's a tough one," Kluber said. "You've got guys crashing and it's not like a National league team, where we're in [the batting cage] bunting or hitting once a week."
Kluber did say he had fun being called upon as a pinch-runner, though.
"People say pitchers aren't athletes," he said with a smirk. "We like to prove them wrong."
Prospect Perez played through Bell's palsy
SAN FRANCISCO -- Indians catching prospect Roberto Perez has enjoyed a torrid start to his season with Triple-A Columbus. This is more than just a strong first month for the catcher. It is an incredible comeback story.
Ross Atkins, Cleveland's vice president of player development, revealed Sunday that Perez dealt with Bell's palsy for most of last season, but played through the condition. For most of Perez's time at Triple-A last year, he suffered from partial paralysis of the left side of his face, resulting in problems with his left eye.
"About maybe a week after he was in Columbus, he got Bell's palsy in his face," Atkins said. "He literally could not close his eye for months. He had to put a patch on to sleep."
Atkins said the issue did not really calm down until Spring Training prior to this season.
"It was a slow, gradual improvement," Atkins said. "It was getting a little bit better very gradually. You can still see it in his face. When he smiles, you really see it. He couldn't sleep. It affected his ability to see the ball. He couldn't blink. The dryness, the fatigue, the mental drain."
The Indians discussed placing Perez on the Minor League disabled list, but the catcher insisted on playing through the condition.
"He's exceptionally tough and unselfish," Atkins said.
Through 15 games for Columbus this season, the 25-year-old Perez has hit .405 with four home runs, two doubles, 11 RBIs, nine walks and eight strikeouts for the Clippers. In 99 games between stints with Double-A Akron and Columbus last season, Perez hit just .200 with two homers and 34 RBIs, while dealing with Bell's palsy.
"He had a really tough time, man," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Those are the things that we probably know about that's not publicized. It's why we probably end up caring more about our guys, or wanting to come to their aid a little bit, or defend them a little bit.
"We see that side of it more often than maybe people know. That was tough, man."
Quote to note
"I think we all probably hit at some point. So it's fun to try to do that again. It's not something that we're working on all the time and preparing for, though. So at the same time, you've kind of got to manage getting ready for each start and doing all that stuff."
--Kluber, on being required to bat in Interleague Play
• Former Indians setup man Joe Smith, who suited up for Cleveland in the previous five seasons, was recently named the closer for the Angels. Smith signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract with Los Angeles as a free agent over the winter. Francona is looking forward to seeing Smith during the Tribe's upcoming three-game series in Anaheim.
"I don't want him to carve us up. That's saying the obvious," Francona said with a laugh. "I think so much of Smitty, even to the point where I know Smitty's kind of gone out of his way to be good to my son there. Things like that. I just think we all really like Smitty.
"He shows up every day, he wants the ball. It's just hard not to like him. If you don't like him, you're trying not to. We all loved him. I hope he comes in and hangs a breaking ball and somebody hits it a mile, but that doesn't change how I feel about him."
Francona's son, Nick, was hired over the offseason by the Angels to be the club's coordinator of Major League player information.
• The Indians have played in front of a packed house in each of the three Interleague games against the Giants at AT&T Park. Bourn said he believes it is a good experience for the Tribe to play in that kind of raucous environment, in which the fans are on the players all game long.
"I think it's important for us to play in an atmosphere like this," Bourn said. "This is a real big league atmosphere. You're against the crowd. The stands are packed. We don't see that a lot. We might see it in Detroit, maybe at Yankee Stadium. We don't see it every day. So when we come play in this atmosphere, I think it's good for our experience."
• Indians third baseman and cleanup hitter Carlos Santana headed into Sunday's game batting .128 through 23 games on the season. Santana was hitting just .056 (3-for-54) in his previous 15 games. During Saturday's loss to the Giants, Santana launched a foul ball out of AT&T Park and into McCovey Cove, providing a sign of life within another hitless plate appearance.
"Sometimes guys just need a hit," Francona said. "I do think he's closer. He hit the ball to right-center the other day, which was good. He took a couple walks, which was good. I still think he's gotten in a couple hitter's counts and he's pulled balls foul. That's an indicator that he's still getting around the ball a little bit instead of kind of staying through it. When he stays through it, those balls will stay fair."
• Indians pitching prospect Trevor Bauer earned the win for Columbus in a 6-2 victory over Norfolk on Sunday. Bauer gave up two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in seven innings. Through four Triple-A starts, the righty has gone 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 0.97 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) with 28 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.