CLEVELAND – The Indians don’t have much to play for the rest of the season, but finishing out of last place in the Central Division is still a goal for Cleveland, which gets an opportunity to make some progress in the department with a visit from the Royals.
The last-place Indians entered the series opener of a three-game set Friday with the Royals, trailing fourth-place Kansas City by three games in the division standings.
“I don’t think anyone wants to finish last,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta, whose club entered the night with a 3-5 record against KC this season. “Obviously, it’s an important series for us to try and gain some ground on these guys. Twenty-two (non-qualifying playoff) teams are going to go home anyway, but it’s always nice to finish fourth instead of fifth, because people don’t say fifth, they say last.”
Playing for fourth place wasn’t what anyone around the Indians organization envisioned when the season began, but injuries and performance issues have taken their toll.
“It’s not a good consolation to have anyway,” Acta said.
Finishing in last place would actually serve the Indians better, with the club receiving a higher pick in the 2011 draft. Teams in a number of sports have been accused of purposely losing games to accomplish as much.
“I’ve never been part of that, and as a manager, I wouldn’t be part of it,” Acta said. “I try to win every single game.”
Big League Choo
The Indians would rather not discuss Shin-Soo Choo’s impending military obligation to his native South Korea.
“We don’t want to think about that stuff,” Acta said. “We just pray that he’s here every day and in the lineup.”
Unless Choo’s South Korean national team wins the Asian Games this fall, he is required to return to his country and serve a two-year term in the military. If that doesn’t happen, the Indians are hoping an agreement can be worked out between Choo and the South Korean government, but it doesn’t appear likely.
Choo can opt to apply for U.S. citizenship, but under current law, he could not return to South Korea without facing arrest.
On a lighter note, hanging in Choo’s locker Friday was an autographed jersey of Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, the player Choo plans on taking with the first pick Sunday in the fantasy football draft for Indians’ personnel at Travis Hafner’s home.
Choo wanted to wear the jersey to the draft and media relations director Bart Swain, an Elyria High graduate, pulled some strings to procure the autographed apparel.
It sounds as though the Indians might not add anyone when rosters expand to 40 players Wednesday, choosing to wait until Triple-A Columbus’ season is complete. The Clippers’ regular season ends Sept. 6, but they are still in contention for a playoff spot in the International League, trailing West Division leader Louisville by a half game through Thursday, while leading the wild-card race by three games.
“We’re still not clear on that,” Acta said of the club’s September call-up direction. “It all depends on (the Clippers’) situation. If they’re eliminated, it makes things easier on us, but we’re hoping they make the playoffs. It’s a good experience for those kids.
“Most of the guys from Triple-A are already up here. There’s very few guys down there that can come up and make an impact.”
Columbus right-hander Carlos Carrasco and third baseman Jared Goedert are the strongest candidates for promotion, with Carrasco all but a lock to make an appearance on the big league level.
A pair of first-round draft choices, right-hander Alex White and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, loomed large in Double-A Akron’s 12-0 victory over Portland on Thursday. White, the 15th overall draft pick last year, allowed just three hits and struck out five over seven innings, while Chisenhall, the 29th overall pick in 2008, went 2-for-5 with his 17th homer.
White is 7-3 with a 2.59 ERA over his last 11 games (10 starts), while Chisenhall’s 77 RBIs was tops among Cleveland minor leaguers through Thursday, and his 17 homers ranked third.
Indians closer Chris Perez entered Friday with a 1-0 record, 10 saves and a 1.39 ERA over his last 26 appearances (26 innings). The right-hander’s 2.10 relief ERA ranked ninth in the American League through Thursday. … Jim Joyce was part of an umpiring crew for an Indians game for the first time since his erroneous call at first base cost the Tigers’ Armando Gallaraga a perfect game June 2, in Detroit. Ironically enough, Joyce was at first base Friday. … Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM. Gomez (3-2, 3.62) vs. Greinke (8-11, 3.83).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.