CLEVELAND — Contending has come sooner than expected, which means the time is now for the Indians, with team president Mark Shapiro practically guaranteeing a trade from his club sometime before the July 31 deadline.
Despite being picked by few to finish higher than fourth in the Central Division, the low-budget Indians entered Friday trailing Detroit by a half-game in the standings and actively searching for offensive assistance.
“We, philosophically, clearly want to take advantage of this opportunity we have (to win the division),” Shapiro said in a radio interview with WTAM 1100-AM on Friday. “I don’t see a trade where financial obligations are going to be an obstacle.”
Money is often an object for the Indians, but according to general manager Chris Antonetti, ownership has signed off on exploring potential trade opportunities that will improve the club significantly.
Though the Indians could use a starting pitcher, their most glaring need is at the plate, where an inconsistent offense has been depleted by injuries to key projected contributors, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.
“If we had (Choo) and Grady both out there with these guys, we’d have a heck of a lineup,” Shapiro said. “Now, it’s up to us to fill in some gaps to allow us to be in position in September when they’ll be back.”
“It’s not a secret that we need a middle-of-the-order bat,” manager Manny Acta said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
The Indians’ biggest concern is that those types of players — i.e. Carlos Beltran — will likely come at an expense to their prospect list, a strong one that contains the likes of first-round draft picks Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Lonnie Chisenhall, as well as second-rounder, Jason Kipnis, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus on Friday.
In and out
Outfielder Michael Brantley (heat exhaustion) was back in the lineup after a two-game absence, while outfielder Travis Buck, who missed Wednesday’s game, was also available after being hit on the head by a pitch Tuesday.
Carlos Santana, who is hitless in his last eight at-bats, got the day off.
White (right finger surgery) threw a bullpen session Friday at Progressive Field, his first since sustaining the injury. Depending on how he felt today, White was tentatively scheduled to pitch a simulated game Monday.
White, the Indians’ first-round draft choice (13th overall) in 2009, was injured three starts into his debut season — 1-0, 3.60 ERA — but the Indians are optimistic he will return this year.
Justin Masterson is controlling what he can, posting a 3-2 record and 1.75 ERA over his last nine games (eight starts). The ERA is the third-lowest in the American League since June 8, with his season ERA of 2.64 ranking seventh in the AL.
Unfortunately, Masterson (8-6, 2.64) has gotten little run support, with the Indians scoring two runs or fewer in nine of his 20 starts. Cleveland has scored one run or been shut out in six of his outings.
Columbus’ Jason Donald entered Friday batting .488 (21-for-43) two homers and eight RBIs over his last 12 games. Donald was hitting .336 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 38 games for the Clippers through Thursday. … Beau Mills, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick (13th overall) in 2007, was promoted to Columbus. He hit .300 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 61 games for Double-A Akron.
Travis Hafner played in the 1,00th game of his career Friday night, his 977th as an Indian. … Starting Friday, 44 of the Indians’ remaining 65 games (68 percent) are against division opponents — Chicago (13), Detroit (12) Kansas City (9) and Minnesota (10). … Recording artist Drake threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM. Huff (1-0, 0.00) vs. Jackson (6-7, 3.97).
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