CLEVELAND – Shin-Soo Choo has a bruised right hand but he was in the lineup Friday – a day after being hit by a pitch from Baltimore’s Kevin Millwood.
“I’m fine,” said Choo, who told reporters Thursday night that he thought he had broken his hand after Millwood hit him in the fifth inning of the Indians’ 4-1 victory.
It was the second time this season that Choo has avoided a potential serious injury. He appeared to be headed for surgery after injuring his right thumb while making a diving catch in early July, but instead spent just 19 days on the disabled list. A broken hand would have likely ended Choo’s season.
“That would have been a big-time blow,” said manager Manny Acta. “I know he was scared because of what he had been through. I know he felt like he dodged a bullet when the thumb injury wasn’t as serious as people thought.
“(Choo’s absence) was going to leave us pretty much naked.”
Choo, arguably the Indians’ best overall player, has shown no ill effects from the thumb injury, entering Friday with a .295 batting average (23-for-78), nine doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs in 20 games since leaving the DL. On the season, he was hitting .288 with a team-leading 14 homers and 55 RBIs in 98 games through Thursday, while owning the American League’s sixth-highest on-base percentage (.384).
“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Acta said. “I’m most impressed by his defense because we knew what he could do offensively. He’s been money playing the outfield.
“He made a point of improving his defense this year. In the past, some people felt around the wall he was a little hesitant, but he’s been great out there.”
Choo entered Friday with four errors, while ranking second in the AL with eight outfield assists.
Travis Hafner (right shoulder inflammation) took batting practice Friday and is expected to do the same today. If he emerges without incident, the Indians will decide whether Hafner requires a rehab assignment before being activated from the disabled list.
Acta said Hafner would not make the team’s upcoming six-game road trip through Kansas City and Detroit, so a rehab stint seems likely, if he has healed sufficiently.
Center of attention
With Michael Brantley playing so well defensively in place of injured center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee surgery), Acta was asked if he has contemplated Sizemore moving to left field next season.
“We’re going to first have to see how Grady comes back from that injury, but it’s so far away, too far away to think about,” Acta said. “Grady’s a superstar out there (in center). It does give us a glimpse of what we have with Grady, Choo and Brantley out there. That’s pretty good.”
Sizemore won consecutive Gold Glove awards in center from 2007-08.
Jeanmar the jewel
With his victory over the Orioles on Thursday, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez became just the fourth Cleveland pitcher since 1920 to record wins in three of his first four big league starts. He joins Scott Lewis (2008), Jim “Mudcat” Grant (1958) and Wynn Hawkins (1960).
Entering Friday, Gomez had posted the sixth-lowest ERA (1.54) in the majors since July 18 and was tied with Tampa Bay’s Wade Davis for the league lead in wins by a rookie since the All-Star break.
Carlos Carrasco allowed a run on just three hits, while striking out eight over six innings of Triple-A Columbus’ 4-3, 13-inning loss to Syracuse on Thursday. Jensen Lewis allowed a game-winning homer in the 13th. Carrasco, who is expected to pitch for the Indians at some point this season, is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five starts.
• Second baseman Jason Kipnis, a second-round draft pick last year, is doing his best to earn another promotion. Kipnis, who began the season at advanced Class A Kinston, entered Friday batting .332 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 53 games for Double-A Akron.
Midview High graduate Ryan Feierabend has spent the entire season in Seattle’s minor league system after missing all of last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had compiled a 4-6 record and 5.04 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) at three different levels through Thursday – 3-5 with a 5.23 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Tacoma.
Feierabend, a third-round draft pick of Seattle’s in 2003, hasn’t appeared on the big league level since 2008, but he pitched in 25 games (19 starts) for the Mariners from 2006-08.
Indians catchers entered Friday having thrown out 30-of-110 (27.3 percent) runners attempting to steal, which ranked fifth in the American League.
• Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera entered Friday batting .238 (19-for-80) with a homer and six RBIs in 21 games since being activated from the injured list.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.