MINNEAPOLIS – However the season is dissected, the Cleveland Indians have certainly started strong.
For manager Manny Acta, it’s not the time for this to matter.
Arguably baseball’s biggest early surprise, the Indians rolled into Minnesota with the best record in the American League at 13-6. The defending AL Central champion Twins are already six games behind.
Acta was speaking cautiously like any manager or coach in sports would, but he even looked uncomfortable as he fielded questions from reporters about his fledgling team before Friday’s postponed game against the Twins.
“They’ve been the best team in our division the past few years. The title chase still runs through Minnesota,” Acta said. “It’s still very early. Way too early. I know everyone would rather be on top right now. That’s normal, but it’s way too early. Let’s not forget these guys were trailing the White Sox by like five games after the All-Star break, and they won the division relatively easy.”
Chicago beat Minnesota on July 15, the first game of the second half, and led the Central by 41⁄2 games. The Twins clinched it on Sept. 21, with a win against the Indians no less.
Cleveland’s quest to build on this early edge was squelched by a cold, steady rain over Target Field that prompted the game to be called about a half-hour before Friday’s scheduled first pitch.
No makeup date was announced, but the rescheduled matchup will be either in July (18-20) or September (16-18) during one of the other trips that Cleveland makes to Minnesota. The teams have a day off in common on Monday, Sept. 19. Otherwise, they’ll probably play a split doubleheader.
For now, they’ll just face off twice this weekend, with the weather expected to improve.
Twins pushed the scheduled start for left-hander Brian Duensing back to the game this afternoon, when he’ll face Fausto Carmona. The Twins left right-hander Carl Pavano in line to start Sunday afternoon, facing right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was bumped back a day like Carmona.
The Twins then moved left-hander Francisco Liriano to Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, giving him seven days off between starts. The Indians were planning to start right-hander Jeanmar Gomez on Sunday, but with an off day on Monday there was no immediate word on when he’ll start again.
This is the second postponed game in Target Field history. The Twins had one postponement in May last season as well as one game suspended by rain and finished the next day. After playing in the Metrodome for 28 years, they moved outside to their new limestone-and-glass ballpark on the edge of downtown last season.
For the sputtering Twins, with ailments for Justin Morneau (sick) and Delmon Young (ribs) and Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the disabled list with leg injuries, the unexpected night off didn’t hurt. When they make this game up, they ought to be able to play without half of their lineup missing.
For the Indians, coming off a momentum is important, but outfielder Austin Kearns shrugged off any adverse effect of the postponement.
“It’s a rainout. We get an early game tomorrow, so it’s not like you’re getting a whole day,” Kearns said.
As for facing the Twins when they’re in a slump?
“I hadn’t really thought about that. Still got to go out and play. It doesn’t matter who’s out there,” Kearns said.
Acta said he’s expecting the Twins, White Sox and Detroit Tigers to snap to life and make a five-team race out of this. The Kansas City Royals are also off to a fast start, unexpected by most fans and analysts around the game.
“We’re playing well. You can’t compare yourself to others. You just have to keep getting better yourself and see where that takes you,” Acta said, adding: “To me it’s about consistent baseball. You have to make sure you don’t get into too many lulls. You have to make sure that if you have a month where you don’t play .500, it’s not ridiculously bad. That’s what it’s all about.”
• WHO: Cleveland at Minnesota
• TIME: 1:10 p.m.
• WHERE: Target Field, Minneapolis
• PITCHERS: Carmona (1-2, 4.74 ERA) vs. Duensing (1-0, 3.60)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM