CLEVELAND — Manny Acta likes the progress made by the Cleveland Indians despite injuries and their last-place standing in the AL Central.
“There’s a lot of baseball left and I like how our group of kids played the last couple of weeks of the first half,” Acta said Thursday during an offday practice.
“The wins are not there, but I’ve seen improvement.”
The Indians, 34-54, open the season’s second half tonight against division rival Detroit. They will do it with the top three players missing from their lineup. Outfielder Grady Sizemore is out for the season following knee surgery in May. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and possibly outfielder Shin-Soo Choo could be back soon.
Cabrera is on a minor league rehab assignment, recovering from a broken left forearm suffered in mid-May. Choo, out since July 2 with an injured right thumb, took part in fielding drills and did some light hitting Thursday.
Choo believes he can avoid surgery that would sideline him until at least September. He was examined Monday by Dr. Thomas Graham, who offered some words of encouragement.
“The MRI was not that good, but the doctor tested the thumb and thinks it may not be that bad,” said Choo, who has 13 homers, 43 RBIs and a .286 average. “He told me to try rehab and if I do not feel better, then surgery is still possible.
“But I feel better every day.”
Choo took 20 swings off a batting tee Wednesday, progressed to hitting some soft toss and is scheduled to take regular batting practice by Saturday.
Acta, pleased at that prospect, believes his first year in Cleveland can still be successful.
“A month ago we left Chicago and things were not going their way,” he said of the White Sox. “Now, they are in first place. Anything can happen.”
Acta also knows more youngsters may soon be replacing highpriced veterans that get traded away.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta, outfielder Austin Kearns and righthanders Kerry Wood and Jake Westbrook may be offered to contenders in exchange for prospects that would help the rebuilding Indians in the future.
Westbrook, back after missing nearly two seasons because of elbow surgery, is trying to ignore trade talks.
“Trades are going to happen, but that’s completely out of my control, so why think about it?” said the 32-year-old. “I need to focus on what I can do. That’s pitch as well as I can for this team.”
The Indians already have one of the youngest rosters in the majors and Acta enjoys what he has seen. “The kids we called up when we got the injuries handled the adversity well,” Acta said. “My long-term goal is to see each of them get better.
“We all have to be patient, though. It’s easy to say, ‘Bring up the kids,’ but then when they get here and you see they still need work on fundamentals, you have to go through that, too.”
With a doubleheader Saturday against Detroit, the Indians will need to call up a starting pitcher early next week for a spot start. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco likely will be called up from Triple-A Columbus.
“One start, that’s all,” Acta said. “Unless the guy pitches a perfect game. Then we would have to change our minds.”
The organization will use the second half to evaluate a number of players.
“We’ve seen Matt LaPorta, Jason Donald and Trevor Crowe go out and perform for us,” Acta said. “We’re going to take a look at some more.”