7/26/2014 6:45 P.M. ET
Masterson on track to start against Rangers
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- The Indians wanted more than one conversation before making a firm decision on the next step in Justin Masterson's return from a right knee injury. In going through a variety of scenarios, the club made a pair of calls to the pitcher to talk things over.
Following a shaky rehab outing with Triple-A Columbus on Friday, Masterson insisted that he was healthy and ready to rejoin the Tribe's rotation. Manager Terry Francona noted on Saturday that the right-hander will indeed be activated from the 15-day disabled list to start against the Rangers next Friday at Progressive Field.
"We talked to Masty a couple times today," Francona said on Saturday, "just because we want to not just go on a linescore. He was able to get stretched out and he actually feels pretty good about himself."
The linescore was not pretty.
In 6 2/3 innings against Triple-A Norfolk, Masterson was charged with five runs on four hits with four strikeouts and six walks. The sinkerballer ran his pitch count to 108 before exiting with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning. The three baserunners inherited by Columbus reliever C.C. Lee all came around to score, doing further damage to Masterson's line.
Francona said it was important to get Masterson's input.
"We wanted to see how he felt," Francona said. "He said that he feels much better about attacking the strike zone. He said there were times where he threw some pitches that he probably wouldn't in a Major League game, which is understandable.
"We just want to make sure he's ready to go, because when he comes back, he's back. He was pretty strong in his opinion that he was ready and that another [rehab start] wouldn't help him."
Through 19 starts this season -- the last coming on July 7 -- Masterson has gone 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA, along with 93 strikeouts and 56 walks in 98 innings.
Tribe options Tomlin to make room for McAllister
KANSAS CITY -- The Indians have been using a rotation within their rotation for the past few weeks. Starters Zach McAllister, T.J. House and Danny Salazar have shuffled back and forth between the Majors and Minors, giving the club some added roster flexibility.
Prior to Saturday's game against the Royals, the Indians used the approach again by optioning right-hander Josh Tomlin to Triple-A Columbus in order to promote righty McAllister for a start against Kansas City. With an off-day on Monday and starter Justin Masterson expected to be activated from the disabled list soon, Tomlin became the odd-man out.
"With the makeup right now," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said on Friday, "we've got [a few] guys that are pitching decent that we can kind of manipulate [our roster] and do some matchup-type things, and pitch who we want against who and stuff like that."
McAllister entered Saturday 3-5 with a 5.28 ERA in 12 starts this season, but the righty has a 2.92 ERA in two starts (12 1/3 innings) since a stint on the disabled list and in the Minors. He was recalled on July 19 as Cleveland's 26th player to start the second game of a doubleheader in Detroit. In that outing, McAllister allowed one run, walked three and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.
Tomlin has been a fixture in Cleveland's rotation in May, but some recent struggles have dragged his season record to 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA and 16 homers allowed in 15 appearances. Over his past seven turns in the rotation, the righty has gone 1-4 with a 5.75 ERA, and that includes his one-hit shutout against the Mariners on June 28 in Seattle.
After starting the season 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in four outings, Tomlin has gone 2-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 appearances for the Tribe. In his start against Kansas City on Friday, the right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits across 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision.
"Josh means so much to what we're doing, that we weren't thrilled about doing it," manager Terry Francona said of sending the pitcher to Triple-A. "But we just thought it made sense after we walked through it about 10 times. Then, we explained it to him today and we'll move forward."
Callaway said it is important to explain to the starters in detail that the recent trips to and from the Minors are not strictly demotions, but a way to maximize the roster.
"You're always disappointed when you get sent down," said Callaway, who was not speaking about any of Cleveland's pitchers specifically. "It's tough to take, so sometimes that initial meeting, you have to follow up on it, because they don't hear exactly what you want them to hear. They just hear, 'You're going to Triple-A.'"
Quote to note
"Every time we make a mistake, he hits a home run. I'm sure it's confidence, but he obviously feels good. Sometimes it's the way you matchup maybe against a certain style of pitcher. But it seems like every time we make a mistake, he hits it in that bullpen. He's been a thorn in our side. He's hurt us."
-- Francona, on Kansas City's Mike Moustakas, who has hit .316 with six homers against Cleveland and .181 against the rest of the league entering Saturday's game.
• Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup due to illness, according to the team. Utility man Mike Aviles got the starting nod in his place.
• Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been sidelined since Monday due to back spasms, was available off the bench for the Tribe on Saturday. Francona noted that Cabrera is on target to return to the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Royals.
"Cabby feels pretty good," Francona said. "He actually was kind of politicking to play tonight, which is good. We certainly won't start him, but we'll see how he goes through [the pregame routine]."
• Designated hitter Nick Swisher entered Saturday with a .184 average and .468 OPS through nine games on the current road trip, including an 0-for-14 showing with seven strikeouts in the past three games. Prior to the current trip, Swisher hit at a .297 clip with an .856 OPS in his previous nine games.
"Some of that might be the pitching we've seen," Francona said. "Sometimes, you can feel good about yourself and still come up empty. That's the way this league is. What you have to do is remind yourself sometimes that you're OK and that we've faced pretty good pitching."
• Indians first baseman Carlos Santana had two home runs and one stolen base in Friday's 6-4 loss to the Royals. Santana is only the fourth Cleveland first baseman in at least the last 100 seasons to have a stolen base in a multi-homer game. The others include Jim Thome (Sept. 25, 2002), Joe Carter (Sept. 5, 1987) and Mickey Rocco (Sept. 2, 1944).