6/3/2014 7:57 P.M. ET
Francona trying to monitor relievers' usage
By Alec Shirkey / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The Tribe has gotten extensive use out of several relievers this season, but it's a trend manager Terry Francona would like to curb in the coming weeks.
"I don't ever have a goal of wanting our guys to lead the league in appearances," Francona said Tuesday. "And we're right there, so that's not something I'm hoping for."
Entering Tuesday's action, Cleveland's Bryan Shaw and Marc Rzepczynski were tied with two others for the most relief appearances (30) this season in the Majors. Cody Allen fell just behind those two at 29 outings. For Shaw, who allowed a pair of runs in Monday night's win over the Red Sox, his 28 1/3 innings ranked 13th-highest among American League relievers.
Before Monday's outing, Shaw had thrown 47 pitches combined in the previous two games.
"I told Shaw when he came out of the game [Monday] night," Francona said, "I grabbed him and I said, 'Those are my earned runs.'"
It would be one thing, however, if the relievers had struggled while juggling such heavy workloads. As of Monday, the bullpen's 3.19 ERA ranks ninth-best in the Majors. The team's relievers have also combined for 181 strikeouts, the second-best mark in the AL.
"I think we've shown we have a pretty good staff," said reliever Scott Atchison, who has a 2.49 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 22 appearances. "The strikeouts happen. I don't think anybody worries about them out there. You see that's why we maybe get some. Obviously, we have some guys with some really good stuff and everybody's throwing the ball well from the starters to relievers. Everybody's doing well. That's key. I think we're just kind of feeding off each other right now."
Even so, Francona wants to ensure he's not working any of his relievers to such an extent that it endangers their chances at long-term success.
"It's something that I get a lot of anxiety over," Cleveland's skipper said. "It's not just the fact of winning. It's, you're trying to balance winning, a long year and their careers. And the last one, I probably care [the most about]. I have a responsibility. I want to see Cody, Shaw, I want to see them all break the bank."
Swisher progressing; Santana expected back Friday
CLEVELAND -- The Tribe's most notable pair of injured hitters continue to make progress on their comeback trails.
First baseman Nick Swisher and third baseman Carlos Santana both hit the disabled list May 27 -- the former due to a knee injury, the latter thanks to concussion-like symptoms. Up until Monday, the entirety of Swisher's rehab work had been done in the pool, but he has since graduated to "land-based" activities and believes rehab games could be on the horizon.
"As the years progress, there might be some little nagging things that you really have to pay attention to," Swisher said. "Last year it was my shoulder. We dealt with that. This time it just happens to be my knee, and [I'll] just deal with that, get on the right programs, make sure everything's strengthened up."
Indians manager Terry Francona emphasized that he did not want to rush the veteran first baseman back, but he also noted that the team will be flexible about when it plans on upgrading Swisher's status.
"I think he's pretty upbeat about where he's at," Francona said. "[I said], 'Let's not have an artificial timetable. We want you back when you can come back and play and not be limping.' And he understands that. So at some point I'm thinking on this next road trip, he'll probably break away from us, go play a couple games and we'll see how he's doing."
As for Santana, Francona told reporters Tuesday the third baseman/backup catcher took part in a normal pregame routine, including fielding work and time spent in the batting cages. Francona said he expects the 28-year-old Santana, who has doubled as Cleveland's backup catcher, to be ready for activation by Friday.
With Swisher still on the DL then and a third-string catcher already on the roster in George Kottaras, Santana could see the starting lineup early and often without having to spend much time behind the plate.
"There's some logical ways to get him in the lineup where we can play everybody," Francona said. "When Swish comes back, we're going to have to try to figure some things out, and part of that will be Carlos' role. And by that time, I'll have an opportunity to sit [and talk things over] with Carlos at length when he's not rehabbing."
First baseman Jesus Aguilar, who has played sparingly in Swisher's absence, would seem the most vulnerable to be optioned down to Triple-A Columbus when Santana returns.
Bourn again able to utilize speed atop lineup
CLEVELAND -- Center fielder Michael Bourn looks to finally have his legs back under him, making him even more of a weapon for the Indians.
On Sunday, Bourn electrified Progressive Field by delivering the decisive blow -- a walk-off two-run blast in the ninth -- that completed the Tribe's sweep of the Rockies. The center fielder followed that up with a two-hit performance in Monday's win over the Red Sox that included a triple, a steal and two runs.
For Bourn, the recent success has had as much to do with feeling comfortable on the basepaths as anything else.
"Just taking an opportunity when it's there," he said. "That's the main thing, not try to miss out on too many opportunities. If an opportunity exists there you got to try to be aggressive."
The Tribe's resident leadoff hitter has been a stabilizing force atop the order for much of the season. Since returning from his second hamstring injury April 29, Bourn had hit .313 with two homers, three triples and three stolen bases entering Tuesday.
"It's big for us," Indians outfielder David Murphy said of Bourn's strong play of late. "I feel like the leadoff man in any lineup is big, but when he's going for us, it kind of gets everyone going, swinging the way he's swinging it right now, using his speed. Keeps other teams on their toes. It creates offense, is the bottom line."
Bourn has stolen at least 41 bases in five of his last six seasons. And although he has only five swipes into early June, the Indians only expect Bourn's comfort on the basepaths to improve as he becomes further removed from offseason hamstring surgery.
"As he grows into this season," Tribe manager Terry Francona said, "I think you're going to see more and more of this. I think that takes patience, but I think that's the best way to go about it."
Quote to note
"Right now with the way things are going, this could be the start of something great like we had last year. Kind of scratching out a few wins here and there. Next thing you know, kind of a couple walk-off hits get us going in the right direction. Kind of seems like the pitchers were all really having a competition within themselves on who could give a better start. ... For us, we just want to continue to keep things going."
--Swisher, on the team's recent success
• Tribe starter Josh Tomlin has averaged 5.22 strikeouts per nine innings over his Major League career. Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, however, the right-hander has fanned 30 through 32 1/3 innings this season -- a rate of 8.35 strikeouts per nine innings. Driving much of the success, his manager says, is sound command and a strong curveball.
"His breaking ball has been really good," Francona said. "He's buckled some people with some breaking balls with two strikes. I think his location has just been phenomenal. When he's going good, he follows the glove. He's easy to catch, he's easy to umpire, because he just follows the glove."
•Right-hander Zach McAllister is set to make his first rehab start on Wednesday with low Class-A Lake County. McAllister, who threw a bullpen session Sunday, has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 22 with a sore back.
• On Tuesday, the Indians named Double-A Akron right-hander Joe Colon the organization's Minor League player of the week for May 26-June 1. The 24-year-old Colon spun his first career shutout May 26, allowing just three hits and one walk, and followed it up with six innings of two-run ball Sunday. He is 5-2 with a 2.37 ERA.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.