MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians were encouraged by Roberto Hernandez's first outing in his comeback to the club's rotation, but the organization is still in the process of determining the next step in the pitcher's throwing program.
"We don't have that for you guys yet," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Friday. "What we need to do is get him ready, stretch him out and that'll be it."
Hernandez, who returned to the United States on Saturday after receiving a new working visa, logged five innings for Class A (low) Lake Country on Thursday night. The right-hander allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks in a 66-pitch effort.
In his first game action of this season, Hernandez was around 89-93 mph on his fastball.
"They liked the way he threw the ball," Acta said. "He was able to keep the ball down. He just went through the five innings with no issues. He felt good afterward, so we'll just go from there."
Hernandez -- formerly known as Fausto Carmona -- will throw in a bullpen session at Lake County on Saturday. He will likely make his next Minor League start on Tuesday, but Cleveland has not determined which affiliate he will join for that outing.
Acta said the goal is to build Hernandez up to around 100 pitches before having him rejoin the Indians' staff. Hernandez is currently on Major League Baseball's restricted list and will not be eligible to be activated until Aug. 11, following his three-week suspension for using a false identity.
Santana looking to prove he belongs in cleanup spot
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians manager Manny Acta named Carlos Santana his cleanup hitter long before this season began. The catcher lost that responsibilty and is now tasked with convincing Cleveland to trust him with that role again.
"That can take care of itself," Acta said on Friday.
Over the past two weeks, center fielder Michael Brantley has served as the Tribe's fourth hitter, while Santana has bounced between the fifth, sixth and seventh spots. As of late, Santana has been heating up at the plate, making it seem possible the catcher could return to the cleanup spot in the near future.
Acta is not going to rush anything.
"He's swinging the bat better," Acta said of Santana. "But we still feel that Michael gives us a good shot there to drive in runs the way he's been swinging the bat. They're going to have to work their way eventually there. That's the ideal situation for us, but we just don't want to jump the gun right away. We feel like we're fine right now like that."
Entering Friday's tilt with the Twins, Santana was hitting .316 (18-for-57) with three home runs, seven doubles and nine RBIs in his past 18 games. During that stretch, the switch-hitting catcher had more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) and an impressive 1.062 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Santana has lifted his season average 20 points to .238 from .218 in that 18-game span.
One reason Acta likes Brantley in the middle of the lineup is the fact that the center fielder has hit .293 overall and .302 with runners in scoring position this season. That said, Brantley has hit just .213 (10-for-47) in his 13 games as the Tribe's cleanup man. When he has hit out of the Nos. 5-7 holes, the center fielder has posted a .341 (72-for-211) average.
Acta said his hope is that Santana does not worry too much about where he falls in the batting order.
"I don't think the lineup spot should be a goal," Acta said. "It should be to just continue to have good at-bats and improve his offense. It doesn't matter where you hit in the lineup."
Indians to shut down R. Perez after latest setback
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have temporarily shut down reliever Rafael Perez, adding another setback to a rehab process that has lasted three months.
On Friday, Indians manager Manny Acta indicated that Perez complained of shoulder fatigue following his latest Minor League outing. An MRI exam performed on the pitcher's arm came back clean, but the team has opted to keep him off a mound for the next few days.
"He had another MRI, but it showed great improvement," Acta said. "We're just going to shut him down for three to five days and then re-address the throwing issues."
Acta said the good thing is Perez will not need to start his throwing program from scratch.
Perez, who has been on the disabled list since April 26 due to a strained left lat muscle, logged two innings for Triple-A Columbus on Monday in his most recent rehab appearance. Overall, the left-hander has pieced together five shutout innings in four rehab games between Double-A Akron and Columbus.
Perez was 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in eight outings for the Indians earlier this season prior to being sidelined with the injury. The lefty went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 71 appearances out of Cleveland's bullpen last season.
Indians interested in Padres third baseman Headley
MINNEAPOLIS -- While Indians general manager Chris Antonetti stuck to his policy of not commenting on specific players, MLB.com has confirmed that the Indians have inquired about Padres third baseman Chase Headley. According to a report on ESPN.com, the four most aggressive suitors have been Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Antonetti has made it known that the Tribe's preference in trades is to target players who are under club control beyond this season. The 28-year-old Headley, who is making $3.48 million this season, fits that mold. Headley remains in his arbitration years and will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season.
The Padres' asking price is high, so it is not clear how serious the Indians' pursuit is at this point.
The switch-hitting Headley was hitting .267 with 12 home runs, 21 doubles and 51 RBIs through 99 games for San Diego this season. Headley's career splits against lefties (.262) and righties (.272) are relatively even, and he's hit .304 against southpaw starters this year.
Headley has past experience as an outfielder, but inquiring clubs are looking at him for third base. Cleveland already has a young up-and-coming third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall, though he is likely sidelined for the remainder of this season due to a broken right forearm.
If the Indians had the right trade proposal in hand, the ballclub would be willing to pull the trigger right away. Cleveland is not simply sitting back and waiting until Tuesday's Trade Deadline rolls around to make a move.
"If we had the right deal, we would move on that deal," Antonetti said on Friday. "There's nothing keeping us from doing it. We don't have to wait for the Deadline. But, it has to be the right deal that makes the right sense, and I don't necessarily see that happening in the short term."
With an off-day coming up on Monday, the Indians could have skipped struggling sinkerballer Derek Lowe, who has gone 2-8 with a 7.59 ERA in his last 12 starts. Cleveland manager Manny Acta said he gave that no consideration and Lowe is scheduled to start against the Royals on Tuesday night on five days' rest.
Indians catcher Carlos Santana and designated hitter Travis Hafner achieved a rare feat when they launched consecutive home runs against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Thursday's 5-3 win in Cleveland. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time that Verlander had ever allowed back-to-back home runs on back-to-back pitches.
Indians reliever Joe Smith picked up a win on Thursday to improve to 7-2 on the season for the Tribe. That puts Smith into a tie with Tom Mastny (2007) for the most wins in a season by a Cleveland reliever within the past 13 years (2000-12). Relievers Steve Karsay and Paul Shuey each won eight games for Cleveland in the 1999 campaign.
Quote to note
"It has gotten better. I think [Esmil] Rogers has done a good enough job of stabilizing things a little bit more and Tony [Sipp] has been throwing the ball a lot better. That makes us feel much better about our situation back there. It's a matter of them keeping it up now."
--Indians manager Manny Acta, on Cleveland's middle-relief situation