CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona would prefer to have left fielder Michael Brantley in the starting lineup, but the Indians' manager also knows there are higher priorities in life.
A few hours before Friday's game against the Mets, Francona called Brantley into his office and told the outfielder that he was being scratched from the lineup. Brantley was given permission to leave the team to return home to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
"I said, 'We'd love to have you hit fifth, but if you miss the birth of your baby, I would have a hard time,'" Francona said. "Dealing with experience, I missed one of mine and it's not good. In this day and age, as important as baseball is to all of us, and to me more so than probably anybody ever, I still would hate to be responsible for somebody missing the birth of their child. So, he's on his way.
"I think he was struggling with should he go or not. Once I got wind of it, I just didn't think there was really a decision to make."
Francona was not sure how many games Brantley would miss, but noted that the baby was expected to arrive either Friday or Saturday.
With Brantley out of the lineup, outfielder Jason Kubel shifted to left field and moved into the fifth spot of the batting order. Right fielder Drew Stubbs -- initially given the day off against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler -- started in his customary position on the field and in the lineup (ninth).
On the season, Brantley has hit .278 with eight home runs, 24 doubles, 59 RBIs and 60 runs scored through 132 games. Since Aug. 1, Brantley has hit .257 with a .666 OPS in 30 games, though the left fielder has hit .393 (11-for-28) in his last eight contests.
"He's been so consistent," Francona said. "He will get hot again. It just won't be tonight."
Kluber to throw 75-80 pitches in start vs. Mets
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are down one starter, but are bringing another back into the fold.
Right-hander Corey Kluber was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday for a start against the Mets in the second tilt of the current three-game Interleague series. Kluber will slide into the rotation slot vacated by sinkerballer Justin Masterson, who is dealing with a strained left oblique.
Tribe manager Terry Francona is eager to see Kluber back on the mound.
"It's exciting," Francona said. "And it's September, so we kind of have that net behind him where you don't have to ruin your bullpen. I actually think that he's going to go out there and, obviously we're going to cut it short, but I think he's going to pitch just fine."
Kluber, who has been shelved since Aug. 6 due to a sprained middle finger on his right hand, is not stretched out to handle a full workload, but has been cleared to throw around 75-80 pitches. Francona said the team will closely monitor the right-hander's outing, keeping a variety of factors in mind while determining the proper time to lift him in favor of the bullpen.
Francona said Kluber's simulated game on Monday was extremely encouraging.
"The way he threw the ball in that simulated game, I was amazed," Francona said. "I'm not sure saying he held his stuff is even appropriate. He looked like he got strong. So we'll see."
Thanks to September's expanded roster rules, the Indians are currently carrying 15 relievers (11 right-handers and four left-handers) in their bullpen. Two of the pitchers in the 'pen, Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco, are starters by trade and can log multiple innings as long-relief options.
"The idea is not just to cover [innings], but to win," Francona said.
In 21 appearances this season, Kluber has gone 7-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 122 innings, in which he has compiled 116 strikeouts, 26 walks and a .258 opponents' batting average.
Swisher helps Indians add extra fireworks night
CLEVELAND -- With less than a month left in the regular season, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher felt the time had come to thank Cleveland's fans for how they have welcomed him to their city and team this year.
To do so, Swisher funded an additional fireworks night for Progressive Field's promotional schedule.
"It's been such a great opportunity for my wife and I to be here," Swisher said. "It's just a little thank you. That's all. Come down to The Pro, man. Bring your friends. Just the way this season has gone, we're getting better crowds than they did last year, which is a step up.
"But, hey, come on down. Watch a game. Enjoy the fireworks. It's just a little something from us."
The added fireworks night -- complete with Ohio-themed music handpicked by Swisher -- will take place following the Indians' game against the Astros on Sept. 21. The show will be the 17th and final fireworks display at Progressive Field this season.
Tickets are available on indians.com.
"It's just been such an awesome experience this year for us," Swisher said. "And there's so many more to come. We love it here. It's great. So it's just a little thank you. I've got a bunch of tricks up my sleeve. Who doesn't like fireworks, right?"
Tribe set to begin postseason ticketing process
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are not mapping out a parade route just yet, but the team has been granted permission by Major League Baseball to begin the postseason ticketing process.
Heading into Friday's game against the Mets, the Tribe sat three games back of the Rays for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Oakland currently holds the top Wild Card seed in the AL, but the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Indians and Royals are all within 4 1/2 games of the second slot.
"This is a fun time of year," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "When you show up to the ballpark and you're nervous about the game, that's really exciting. I wish we had a better record, but we're in this every bit as much as about four or five other teams."
Cleveland entered Friday 6 1/2 games behind Detroit for the AL Central lead.
Indians season-ticket holders will soon receive invoices for 2013 postseason tickets, and season-ticket holders who already have renewed tickets for 2014 will have the opportunity to purchase additional tickets.
The Indians have also begun "Playoff Payoff" season-ticket deposits for new season-ticket plans for the 2014 season. Any fan who places a deposit on a 2014 full-season or half-season plan will gain access to 2013 postseason tickets for games at Progressive Field.
Season-ticket holders will also receive substantial discounts on 2013 playoff tickets.
Information regarding postseason tickets for the public will be announced soon, too.
"We've got to keep winning games," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "This team lost close to 100 games last year. For us to just be in this spot, it goes to show you what this organization is doing. We're not only trying to do it for this year, we're trying to build this organization back up.
"We're going to try to go out and get this. This is something we're sitting back on."
Quote to note
"Our sport is different. Sometimes when the lights get the brightest, your pitcher needs to throw a changeup, not run through the line and knock somebody over on adrenaline. The biggest thing I think is paying attention to detail, and then you hope you're good enough."
-- Francona, on how to handle being in a playoff chase
• The chicken that attended pregame batting practice with Cleveland's players on Wednesday, and became dubbed the "Rally Chicken" by Indians fans via Twitter during the 6-4 victory over the Orioles, has been returned safely to its owners.
Prior to Friday's game, Francona was asked if the Tribe's lucky chicken stirred any memories of the infamous fried chicken controversy during his final days as the Red Sox's manager.
"I actually hadn't thought of that," Francona said after letting out a hearty laugh. "That's pretty good. As long as the chicken wasn't drinking beer, we're good to go."
• Friday's game against the Mets marked the first of 17 consecutive games for the Indians, whose final regular-season off-day falls on Sept. 23. Francona said the team might consider going to a six-man rotation during the current stretch should circumstances dictate such a decision.
"If we needed it, yeah," Francona said. "We don't really have a guy right now that you can pencil in and say he's going nine [innings]. So, you don't want to do too much tinkering. We do have enough numbers where, when we're losing, we can hopefully cover the innings."
• Entering Friday, Ryan Raburn (4.60), Jason Giambi (5.83) and Jason Kipnis (6.36) represented the Indians' top three batters in terms of at-bats per RBI. Among American League hitters with at least 165 at-bats, Raburn, Giambi and Kipnis ranked third, 15th and 24th, respectively, in that area.