Saturday, May 26, 2018 Medina 63°

Tribe Notes

Indians notes: Tito tinkers with lineup again, drops struggling Encarnacion out of clean-up spot

  • Indians-Tigers-Baseball-6

    Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Zach McAllister throws against the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Detroit on May 1.


  • Indians-Blue-Jays-Baseball-1

    Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) reacts after fouling a ball off his foot during eighth inning American League MLB baseball action against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on May 8.



CLEVELAND -- A day after making a change to his lineup -- second baseman Jason Kipnis replacing Carlos Santana atop the batting order -- manager Terry Francona made another, moving Santana into the clean-up spot to replace slumping slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who hit fifth in the series opener against Tampa Bay on Monday. 

“I wouldn’t consider this a shakeup. We just flip-flopped two guys,” Francona said. “Until Edwin gets going, maybe moving him out of that clean-up spot ... guys still have to hit. If you hit fourth or fifth, I’m not too sure it’s a whole big difference. But until he really gets on a roll, if we could split up Santana and (sixth hitter Jose) Ramirez, it’ll probably help us somewhere else.”

Encarnacion’s debut season in Cleveland -- after signing a free-agent contract worth $60 million over three years -- has not begun well. He entered Monday batting .206 with five home runs, 11 RBIs and a team-leading 45 strikeouts over 36 games.

Francona was asked if he thought Encarnacion was feeling pressure to produce for his new team despite his veteran status -- three-time all-star over a 12-year career. 

“I don’t really think so. I think he’s aware that he’s having a tough time, obviously,” Francona said. “But I don’t see him after his first at-bat slamming (his) helmet. I just think he’s a little frustrated with how it’s gone.

“I think he really has a good presence about him. For whatever reason, he’s getting started a little late (with his swing) and everything has to be rushed. He knows it. There’s been a few games where he’s kind of got on time, and you see what happens, but he hasn’t been able to carry it consistently.”

There is a silver lining. Encarnacion led the Indians with 26 walks and was tied with Ramirez for the team lead in on-base percentage (.353) through Sunday.

“You can tell there’s sometimes where he’s starting to see the ball and he’ll take ball four and it looks like he wanted to swing so (darn) bad, but he knows it’s a ball,” Francona said. “I think that’s a great sign. How many times do you see guys that want to go 3-for-1? And to the best of my knowledge, you can’t do that. That’s when you get yourself in trouble, ’cause then you’re swinging at pitches you can’t hit.”

Francona maintains confidence in Encarnacion, who batted .200 with four homers and nine RBIs over 24 games in April.  

“I’m telling you, he’s going to be fine,” Francona said. “I know it hasn’t been his best month. He’ll be just fine.”

Wounded Wahoos

  • An MRI revealed a more significant injury for outfielder Brandon Guyer, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained left wrist that sent him to the 10-day disabled list on Sunday.
    Guyer, who is hitting .182 over 21 games, will take a week off before beginning work to strengthen the wrist.
  • Ace Corey Kluber (lower-back strain) threw from the mound for the first time Monday, working what Francona called a low-intensity bullpen. The next step is a normal bullpen session, followed by a simulated game that will most likely take place at Class A Lake County.
    “The fact that he’s getting up on the mound is good. It means he’s getting better,” Francona said of Kluber, who has been sidelined since May 3.
    Francona said he expects Kluber to make a minor-league rehab appearance before being activated.
    “I think from talking to him and talking to the trainers, I bet you one would be appropriate,” Francona said. “I think he thinks so, too.”
  • Outfielder Austin Jackson (hyperextended toe) took batting practice and ran the bases and is expected to do the same today. Francona said Jackson would be re-evaluated after, but it appears he is close to leaving the injured list. 

Z-Mac attack

With right-hander Dan Otero struggling -- 4.20 ERA through Sunday -- RHP Zach McAllister has been an asset out of the bullpen, entering Monday with a 1.23 ERA over 10 appearances (14 2/3 innings).

“He’s really been getting right-handers out,” Francona said of McAllister, who had limited right-handed hitters to a .043 (1-for-23) batting average through Sunday. “That’s probably the thing that was harder for him before. 

“I think he’s worked so hard on his breaking ball and it’s become more consistent. And I think at the end of spring training, he went back to his mechanics from before and some of the power came back to his fastball, which I think then leads to confidence. He’s in a good spot.”

Roundin’ third

Andrew Miller’s 17 1/3-inning scoreless streak through Sunday accounted for the longest by an Indians pitcher to begin the season since Doug Jones tossed 20 scoreless innings in 1990. ... Michael Brantley turned 30 on Monday. ... Monday was the 36th-year anniversary of Len Barker’s perfect game at Municipal Stadium. ... Tonight, 6:10, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Salazar (2-3, 5.20) vs. Odorizzi (2-2, 2.61).   

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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