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7/24/2014 7:38 P.M. ET

Francona: Masterson returning to form as good as trade

KANSAS CITY -- The Indians believe that a having a healthy Justin Masterson for the final two months of the season could have a similar impact as adding an arm via a trade.

Masterson, who was Cleveland's Opening Day starter for the third year in a row this season, is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee issue. The big right-hander will make a second Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Friday.

Indians manager Terry Francona was asked on Thursday what he can expect from Masterson once the sinkerballer returns, possibly after Friday's rehab start.

"The best would be for him to get hot, and what a kick in the pants that would be for us," Francona said. "What a boost. Because he has that ability -- we all know it -- and we've seen bits and pieces. We just haven't seen him really put it together too much. If he was able to get hot, that would be such a pickup for us.

"I mean, you think back to what he did for us [last season] and what he means to us. It'd almost be like making a trade. The first half's been so tough for him. That'd be really exciting."

Through 19 starts this season -- his last coming on July 7 -- Masterson has gone 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 56 walks in 98 innings. As a first-time American League All-Star in 2013, the righty won 14 games, posted a 3.45 ERA and piled up 195 strikeouts in 193 innings.

In a Minor League outing for Columbus on Sunday, Masterson logged five innings and gave up two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks. In his start on Friday, Masterson will not face any kind of pitch limit.

"We want to get him a little further into the game," Francona said. "We told him, we said, 'Hey, go treat this like a big game. Get after it a little bit.' I think that'd be good for him, to kind of just get after it, let it fly, and just see how far he can carry that into the game."

Francona hopeful Asdrubal returns this weekend

KANSAS CITY -- Indians manager Terry Francona is optimistic that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will be able to return to the lineup before the end of this weekend's series against the Royals.

Prior to Thursday's game in Kansas City, Cabrera tested out his back by hitting off a tee and doing some light running. Francona indicated that the shortstop will increase the intensity of his workout on Friday, with the goal of rejoining the lineup on Saturday or Sunday.

"He's doing much better," Francona said. "He showed up and it's loosening up a lot. He's kind of working into some activities. He'll do more baseball activities [Friday] with an eye toward, I think Saturday might be a little ambitious, but I think Sunday is [a possibility].

"Again, you have to see how he does -- but I think he's well on his way to not being a two-week thing. I think he's going to be a couple days."

The 28-year-old Cabrera exited Monday's game in Minnesota with back spasms and, as insurance, Cleveland promoted infielder Jose Ramirez from Triple-A on Wednesday. Utility man Mike Aviles played shortstop for the Indians on Tuesday, and Ramirez handled the shortstop duties on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Through 94 games this season, Cabrera has hit .247 with nine home runs, 22 doubles, 39 RBIs and 52 runs scored for Cleveland.

"He started doing some movements and he did a lot of stuff in the training room," Francona said of Cabrera's progress on Thursday. "[Friday] will be a little bit more aggressive, and then hopefully -- depending on how he reacts to that -- he'll just continue to ramp up."

Quote to note

"These are our guys, and I like our guys. I don't mind seeing how good we can be. I know [general manager Chris Antonetti] is always trying [to look at trades], but it has to make sense. I get that part of it, too. So, I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about it. I spend more time trying to figure out how we can be better."
-- Francona, on the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline

Smoke signals

• Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who opened this season with Columbus, has developed into one of the most reliable arms in the rotation. Nine of Bauer's 14 outings have been quality starts, and he has turned in a 3.16 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31 1/3 innings in July (five starts).

"He competes really well," Francona said. "Depending on what's working or not working, I think he still finds a way to get into the game and to not give up a bunch of runs. I don't think it's just mechanical. I think he's a lot more competitive than maybe it appears just by walking around. I think that bodes well for us. He's still young and learning, and he's eager to learn."

• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring injury) played long-toss in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday and continues to do light running drills. There remains no established timetable for Bourn's return to game action, though he will need a Minor League rehab assignment before rejoining the club.

• Excluding pickoffs, Cleveland catchers had thrown out 28 of 88 (31.8 percent) of would-be basestealers, entering Thursday's series with the Royals. That marked the second-best rate in the AL, and the fourth-best rate in the Majors.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.