CLEVELAND — As expected, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to start Tuesday night against Oakland. What wasn’t expected was the player he replaced on the 25-man roster.
To clear room for Gomez, first baseman Matt LaPorta was optioned to Columbus, leaving the big league roster for the first time this season.
“We’re in a very tough spot with all the injuries in the infield and the outfield,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club has seven players on the disabled list and is without Shin-Soo Choo (left oblique) for at least two weeks. “First base is the only place we have some depth.”
LaPorta may have been a victim of numbers, but his sagging statistics didn’t help matters. The highly-touted slugger acquired in the CC Sabathia trade with Milwaukee in 2008 is hitting just .238 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 97 games.
“There’s been a lot of inconsistency,” Acta said. “He still shows flashes of the player we envision him to be, but he still needs work on his plate discipline. He’s a guy we project to be a power guy. It just hasn’t happened yet.
“He’s made some strides, but the expectations for a guy like that are higher than that. So far, it’s been a challenge for him.”
LaPorta, the key cog in the Sabathia trade could be feeling the pressure to produce after failing to accomplish as much during his first two seasons in the big leagues with the Indians in 2009-10.
“If you let that affect you, it’s on you,” Acta said. “It’s part of life. Everyone feels some pressure doing whatever they’re doing.”
With LaPorta gone, Carlos Santana is expected to get the majority of playing time at first, while Lou Marson handles the catching duties on a regular basis. Shelley Duncan and Jack Hannahan can also play first in a pinch.
Gomez, 0-2 with a 5.70 ERA in two spot starts for the Indians this year, could finish the season in the rotation if disabled right-hander Josh Tomlin (ligament strain right elbow) is shut down.
Grady Sizemore (right knee) will begin a minor league rehab assignment tonight at Double-A Akron, serving as the designated hitter for the Aeros. He is expected to play center field for six innings the following night.
The seasons for Cleveland’s top four minor league affiliates end Monday, so if Sizemore needs more rehab work, it will come from one of the playoff qualifiers, most likely, Columbus.
Outfielder Trevor Crowe (right shoulder surgery) had his minor league rehab assignment transferred to Columbus after batting .444 (8-for-18) with two homers and eight RBIs in six games for the Arizona League Indians.
Crowe, who has missed the entire season after undergoing surgery March 30, was expected to start for the Clippers on Tuesday.
Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh was named International League Manager of the Year. The Clippers, who clinched first place in the IL’s West Division last Tuesday, entered Tuesday with the league’s best record (85-53). … Columbus infielders Jason Kipnis and Luis Valbuena were named to the IL’s postseason All-Star team. Kipnis, who is currently on the disabled list for the Indians, hit .280 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 92 games for the Clippers. Valbuena was batting .304 with 16 homers and a team-leading 73 RBIs in 107 games through Monday.
Closer Chris Perez’s 30 saves through Monday are the most since Joe Borowski saved 45 in 2007. … Entering Tuesday, 13 of the Indians’ last 26 games and four straight had been decided by one run. Cleveland is 5-8 in those games and 23-34 overall in one-run games (17-8 at home). … Jim Thome entered Tuesday with one hit (a homer) in 11 at-bats (four games) since joining the Indians in a trade from the Twins. … Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM. Jimenez (8-10, 4.71) vs. Harden (4-2, 4.55).