Indians aren't stuck in middle with relief corps
Francona pleased with bullpen work to get to back end of Perez, Pestano Smith
KANSAS CITY -- The Indians knew what they had coming into this season in closer Chris Perez and setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. The unanswered question was whether the middle relief would do its part to bridge the gap to that solid trio.
So far, Indians manager Terry Francona has been pleased with the results.
"I've been a part of teams where you have guys that you're trying to get to," Francona said, "and you maneuver it around. So often you've heard me say it, 'If you get to the bullpen before you want to, it has a chance to blow up.' But we've been going to guys like Cody [Allen] or Bryan Shaw early, and they give us a chance to win.
"It's good and it's deep, and we intend to keep it that way."
The middle-relief situation was an issue at times last season for Cleveland. If you remove Perez, Pestano and Smith from the equation -- they posted a 3.01 ERA combined a year ago -- the rest of the Indians' bullpen turned in a 4.56 ERA in 2012. The Tribe went 52-8 when it had a lead after six innings last season, but ended with 94 losses overall.
Through 19 games this season, Perez, Pestano and Smith have again been stellar, combining for a 0.83 ERA (two earned runs in 21 2/3 innings). Excluding the emergency relief appearance by starter Brett Myers on April 9, the rest of Cleveland's relief corps (Allen, Shaw, Rich Hill, Nick Hagadone and Matt Albers) have combined for a 2.65 ERA (10 earned runs in 34 innings).
Entering Friday, the Indians' bullpen was riding a streak of 19 consecutive scoreless innings, marking the fifth-longest run of its kind for the ballclub dating to 2000, and tied for the longest current streak in the Majors this season. Over the last 10 games, Cleveland has lowered its bullpen ERA from 5.14 to 2.73.
"Not having a traditional long man in the 'pen," Pestano said, "just speaking for myself, I didn't really know how things were going to shake out down there having a couple guys that have mostly gone strictly one inning the past few years. But Albers and Shaw and Cody have shown that they've been able to go multiple innings and do a great job of keeping those games close.
"If we get our starters to go at least five strong innings, and keep the game close, we have to cover one inning and then it's me, Joe and C.P. I'll take those odds all day long."
Francona is doing his part in trying to keep the odds in the Indians' favor.
"We have a good bullpen and part of a manager's responsibility is to keep a bullpen in order," Francona said. "Every once in a while, you have to take your lumps. But if you do that, you keep good pitchers healthy and they have a better chance of being productive. That's the whole goal."
Bourn resumes light baseball activities in KC
KANSAS CITY -- Michael Bourn did not spend Thursday's team off-day in Kansas City with the rest of his teammates. The Indians center fielder was back in Cleveland at Progressive Field, going through a workout and running the bases.
Bourn had five stitches removed from his injured right index finger while in Cleveland and rejoined the team on Friday, where he resumed a series of light baseball activities. The All-Star outfielder leaned against his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium and expressed his frustration over being sidelined.
"I don't want to not be able to play," Bourn said. "Sitting right here is not a fun thing to do."
Bourn injured his hand while sliding into first base in the eighth inning of a 3-1 loss to the White Sox on April 14. On the play -- a ground ball to first baseman Adam Dunn -- Chicago reliever Matt Thornton stepped on Bourn's hand after receiving a relay throw and running through first base.
Bourn is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, when Cleveland begins a nine-game homestand, but it is not a given that the center fielder will be ready at that time. The Indians are taking a day-to-day approach with his recovery, which may or may not include a Minor League rehab assignment.
"Now it's just trying to get him back," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The first day he is eligible is Tuesday, so we'll go on him, how he's doing. We'll just see where he's at each day. I don't know if he needs [a rehab assignment]. If he thinks he needs one, we'll do it. If he doesn't, we probably won't."
Bourn has not resumed playing catch, but he can grip a baseball and a fungo bat. Francona indicated that the outfielder was cleared to do some light hitting drills on Friday, when the Indians moved their pregame workout indoors due to a steady rain, which postponed the series opener.
Through 10 games this season, Bourn has hit .333 (15-for-45) with two home runs, four doubles, one triple, two RBIs and seven runs scored for the Tribe.
McAllister looking to keep runners in check
KANSAS CITY -- Runners have enjoyed a steady rate of success stealing bases against Zach McAllister over the course of his professional career. The big Indians right-hander has been working hard to try to control the running game better than he has in the past.
"We talked about it quite often," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "We started working on things in the bullpen right at the start of the spring to really combat that."
The results have not been entirely measurable just yet.
Through four outings this season, McAllister has allowed four stolen bases with zero runners caught stealing. Last year, the right-hander allowed 18 stolen bases with just one runner caught during his time with Cleveland. For his career, McAllister has given up a combined 80 stolen bases with 11 runners nabbed between his time in the Minor and Major Leagues.
Callaway said McAllister has worked hard on cutting his time to home plate closer to 1.25 seconds. The pitching coach said the starter was around that time on the pitch to White Sox infielder Jeff Keppinger in the first inning on Wednesday, when Alejandro De Aza stole second. Keppinger then drove De Aza in with a single to right field.
"I thought he did a pretty good job on that one," Callaway said. "[De Aza] just ended up safe at second. ... He's made a conscious effort, for sure, in Spring Training to really quicken up and mix his holds, mix his looks and mix that 1.2 time to home on occasion. He's done a really good job of so far."
Callaway noted that the coaching staff has emphasized being faster to the plate to the entire pitching staff.
Last season, the Indians allowed an American League-high 140 stolen bases, including a Major League-worst 108 by the starting rotation. Both of those marks represented the highest in a single season for a Cleveland team since 1979.
"That was one of the big themes in Spring Training for the whole team," Callaway said. "We gave up a lot of stolen bases last year. We talked a lot about pounding the zone, getting ahead and controlling the running game. Those were probably the main things we talked about throughout the spring."
Quote to note
"Even in games where we're down a couple runs, we've shown [in the bullpen] we can keep the game close. As soon as we get all our pieces healthy, we'll be able to turn these one-run losses into two- or three-run wins."
--Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano
• Triple-A Columbus right-hander Carlos Carrasco was struck on his throwing arm by a line drive in the fifth inning of his start against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. The Indians announced on Friday that Carrasco suffered a deep contusion (bruise) of the right elbow and forearm, and is currently considered day to day. Lefty T.J. House was promoted from Double-A Akron to Triple-A and joined Columbus' rotation on Friday.
"He's OK," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco. "He's fine. He's good. I just got the e-mail saying that he was OK. He had been seen by a doctor and he's fine. It's just a bruise, which is great [news]."
• Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who missed Wednesday's game against the White Sox due to a sore right quad, ran in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium during pregame on Friday and was cleared to rejoin the lineup. Catcher Carlos Santana -- fighting flu-like symptoms for the past few days -- was also feeling better and cleared to play for Cleveland.
• On Thursday, the Indians released Double-A Akron outfielder Delvi Cid and activated Double-A outfielder Bo Greenwell (left knee) from the disabled list. Cid, who had 200 stolen bases in 508 Minor League games in the Tribe's system, was hitting .143 through nine games this season. On March 16, Cid enjoyed a night in the spotlight by hitting a two-run triple to give Cleveland a walk-off Cactus League win over the Giants.