SEATTLE -- Indians manager Terry Francona has finally pulled the trigger on a lineup change that he has mulled for several weeks.
On Monday, Francona moved struggling first baseman Nick Swisher out of the cleanup spot and slid the switch-hitter up to the second slot in the order for the opener of a three-game series with the Mariners. Swisher, who has spent significant time in his career as the second hitter, was open to the change.
"We're just kind of switching it up a little bit and hopefully we're just going to roll out from here," Swisher said. "It's been a great year for us as a team in general. We want to just continue to keep that going. This might just be a quick change. This might be a change for the long term. Either way, man, I'm all for it."
Francona said before the game that he hoped the switch can get Swisher going again at the plate.
Through 82 games this season, Swisher has hit .238 with nine home runs and 31 RBI for the Indians, who signed him to a four-year, $56-million contract over the winter. Since June 1, Swisher had hit just .198 with a .584 OPS through 34 games for Cleveland, entering Monday.
Swisher made Francona look smart in the first inning on Monday, sending a pitch from Aaron Harang over the wall in left field for a solo home run in his first at-bat.
Swisher spent 72 games in the cleanup spot for the Indians entering Monday, but had appeared in more games (306) as a No. 2 hitter than any other lineup position in his career. Given Swisher's ability to take pitches and post a solid on-base percentage, Francona liked the concept of putting him between left-handed hitters Michael Bourn (leadoff) and Jason Kipnis (third).
Switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had been batting second, but Francona moved him to the cleanup spot.
"I think this has a chance to help Swish get moving in the right direction," Francona said. "I feel like, to be honest with you, we could leave Swisher where he is. He's going to get hot, because he's a good hitter. I think this has a chance to help him and help us. Swish is going to hit. He's got a track record.
"I just think this puts us maybe in a little better position to score runs, because as a team we need to keep the line moving. That's the type of team we are. I just think right now this plays a little bit to his strengths and our strengths."
Swisher has played through a left shoulder issue this season, but said he has been feeling much improved lately.
"I feel great, man. I think everything is getting back on track," Swisher said. "I'm not an excuse guy. I'm paid to do a job, whether you play through pain. I'm sure everyone in here is playing through some sort of pain, but for mine, it was a little different. It's something I've never had before. I've just got to bounce back, man."
McAllister set to return from DL on Tuesday
SEATTLE -- The Indians did not land Matt Garza in a trade, but the club will be adding a starter to its rotation on Tuesday.
Cleveland is set to activate right-hander Zach McAllister from the disabled list to start against the Mariners on Tuesday, ending the starter's seven-week comeback from a sprained right middle finger. Manager Terry Francona is looking forward to having his rotation intact once again.
"That'll be fun," Francona said of getting McAllister back. "He's worked so hard and he's been so diligent. We're excited. He's definitely a big part of our future. The fact that he came through this so well, because this wasn't something to mess around with, he did a really good job with it."
The Indians' rotation as a whole has been on a strong run as of late.
Entering Monday's game, Cleveland's starters were a combined 5-0 with an American League-leading 1.89 ERA (14 earned runs in 66 2/3 innings), dating back to July 7. In 11 games during that time period, the Indians starting staff has led the league in opponents' batting average (.176), strikeouts (66) and baserunners per nine innings (9.32).
The Indians had been involved in the trade discussions with the Cubs about Garza, but Chicago dealt the right-hander to the Rangers on Monday. Francona would not go as far as saying rotation help was no longer a need given the Tribe's recent improvement in that area, but the manager did say he likes the group he has in hand.
"I'm not comfortable saying what we need, because I don't feel that way," Francona said. "I'm enjoying the heck out of sending who we're sending out there. I really am, for different reasons. ... I like our team. I like seeing how good we can get. That's kind of how I feel."
McAllister, who is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts for the Indians this season, appreciated how the team handled his stay on the disabled list.
"One thing that's been really nice is they've allowed me to go on the road trips," said McAllister, who had a 2.89 ERA in nine starts before the finger issue flared up. "You still feel like you're part of the team and not necessarily an outcast because I'm on the DL. ... Them allowing me to do that has been a huge help for me as far as mentally staying in the game."
Francona: Several factors to consider with Salazar
SEATTLE -- The Indians are closely monitoring the workload of starting pitching prospect Danny Salazar considering his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Under the circumstances, one late-season scenario could be shifting Salazar to the big league bullpen.
Indians manager Terry Francona said it is not that simple.
"He looks and fits the profile. I agree with all that," Francona said on Monday. "It seems like it'd be easy to bring him in the seventh and let him throw. He controls the running game and all those things. But there are other things to think about."
Francona said one of the complicating factors is being unaccustomed to a relief role, which can involve being called upon on short notice. Cleveland is also keeping Salazar's two-year comeback from reconstructive right elbow surgery in mind. Moving from a starting schedule to a bullpen job could create more injury risk.
Salazar only logged 87 2/3 innings last year between Class A (high) Carolina and Double-A Akron.
All of that said, the Indians have not ruled out such a decision.
"How about I answer it in general?" Francona said. "There may be, down the road, ways to fortify our bullpen internally. It doesn't necessarily have to be Danny Salazar. We could maybe go a route like that. It doesn't have to be Danny. It could be somebody else. But it is something we've thought about."
Through 19 games this season, spent between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, the 23-year-old Salazar has gone 5-5 with a 3.19 ERA. Over 79 Minor League innings, the hard-throwing right-hander has compiled 104 strikeouts against 23 walks.
In a spot start for the Tribe on July 11, Salazar showed off his electric fastball, which can hit 96-98 mph, and a strong slider and changeup. Facing the Blue Jays, the right-hander worked six innings, allowing one hit and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts.
Quote to note
"Like I told [general manager Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro] and everybody when I came over here, I want to come over here and I want to win. I've been able to win in the past. With a squad like this, I don't see any reason why we can't. This could be a change for the better. You never know. We'll try it out and see what happens."
--Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, on moving out of the cleanup spot
• Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the season on Monday for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. A handful of Indians players declined comment, but Francona addressed the subject prior to Monday's game in Seattle.
"I'm not very well informed, so I'd hate to make too much of a comment," Francona said. "That's not normally a very smart thing to do. I do know that I really care about our game, so I hope that at some point we're able as a game to get past this, where we're just talking about baseball. I know there's a lot of people smarter than me that are trying to figure out how to do that."
• Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir, who logged just 64 innings last season with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Independent League, has logged 92 innings through 17 starts this year. At his current pace, Kazmir projects to finish the regular season with between 170-180 innings. Francona said the lefty does not have an innings cap.
"No," Francona said. "Kaz has held his stuff pretty well. I think [pitching a full season] would be a testament to his work ethic, if he continues and he holds up like that. I think that I'd be really proud of him. I already am, but that would show how hard he's worked."
• Indians right-hander Corey Kluber exited his start on Saturday after five innings due to tightness in his left hip and upper left hamstring. Kluber continues to progress well and is on target to make his next scheduled start as planned on Friday, according to Francona.
"He's doing fine. I think he's doing OK," Francona said on Monday. "I talked to [head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff] earlier today and I don't think there's any issues there."
• Highly touted shortstop prospect Fransicso Lindor has hit .400 (8-for-20) with a 1.056 OPS through six games since being promoted to Double-A Akron. On the season, Lindor has hit .311 with an .801 OPS, piling up 25 stolen bases, 27 extra-base hits, 29 RBIs, 42 walks and 55 runs through 89 games between stints with Class A (high) Carolina and Akron.