CLEVELAND — The Indians’ floundering offense will be without one of its top hitters in leadoff man Asdrubal Cabrera, who was out of the lineup Tuesday and is expected to miss today’s series finale with a strained left quadriceps.
According to Cleveland manager Manny Acta, the shortstop has been dealing with the injury for a spell, which is why he pinch hit for him in the ninth inning of a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Monday.
Acta said he was hopeful Cabrera would return for the series opener with Detroit on Friday. He did not think Cabrera was a disabled list candidate.
Luis Valbuena moved from second to replace Cabrera at shortstop Tuesday, while second baseman Mark Grudzielanek hit leadoff.
The loss of Cabrera (.311, one HR, four RBIs, 14 runs) is a brief blow to an Indians offense that has struggled mightily out of the gate, entering Tuesday ranked 13th in the American League in runs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage. Cleveland had hit just 14 home runs through Monday, which was the third-lowest total in the majors, and had not gotten a homer out of the catcher, first base and center field positions.
“It’s a very humbling game,” Acta said. “Everybody was expecting our club to score a lot of runs and our pitching to struggle, but it’s been the other way around. It’s a long season. I think these guys, step-by-step, are getting better. Hopefully we’ll pick it up, especially on the power side.”
Deemed completely healthy for the first time in three years, the Indians were expecting much more from designated hitter Travis Hafner, who entered Tuesday batting .189 with two homers and seven RBIs in 21 games. He began the season in the cleanup spot, but batted sixth behind Austin Kearns and Jhonny Peralta on Tuesday.
“I know that he feels partly responsible for what we’re going through, and he shouldn’t,” Acta said. “This a team thing. It’s not just one guy. He just needs to go out there and take it one at-bat at a time.”
Acta wasn’t concerned with the dismal results — six earned runs on four hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning — Kerry Wood produced in his first rehab appearance at Double-A Akron on Monday.
“The main thing is that he came in and told us he felt fine,” Acta said. “Did we want him to go 1-2-3 with 15 pitches? Yes, but the main thing is he felt fine and had no pain.”
Wood (strained right lat muscle) is scheduled to make another rehab appearance for the Aeros tonight and will be re-evaluated after.
Though he suffered his first loss Monday since his season debut, Mitch Talbot has been more than a pleasant surprise for the Indians, going 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA over his first five starts.
Talbot wasn’t even on the radar when spring training began, but the 26-year-old right-hander won a spot in the rotation with his exhibition effort.
“He’s been better than I expected at this level,” said Acta of his No. 5 starter, who had made three big league appearances prior to this season. “I don’t want to say surprised, but he’s been impressive.”
Talbot has been pleased with the results as well.
“I can’t complain at all,” Talbot said. “I’m very pleased with myself.”
- Reliever Joe Smith’s struggles have followed him to Triple-A Columbus, where the right-hander allowed three runs on four hits in his first two appearances (12/3 innings). Smith began the season in the Indians’ bullpen (0-1, 7.71 ERA in nine games) before being sent down to clear room for Rule V Draft pick, Hector Ambriz.
- Akron infielder Cord Phelps entered Tuesday leading the Eastern League with a .385 batting average. Phelps, a third-round draft choice in 2008, spent all of last season at advanced Class A Kinston, where he hit .261 with four homers and 53 RBIs in 130 games.
- The First-Year Player Draft will take place June 7-9, the Indians owning the fifth overall pick. It is the earliest the Indians have chosen since owning the second overall draft choice in 1992 (RHP Paul Shuey).
- Though the Indians are struggling with runners in scoring position (.236), they entered Tuesday batting .321 (9-for-28) with the bases loaded.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.