April 23, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
38°F

Tribe: Francona looks at bright side of punishment

CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona offered his support of Major League Baseball’s decision to hand down suspensions to 13 players Monday, even calling Commissioner Bud Selig to convey as much.

Francona, who is close with Selig from his days with the Milwaukee Brewers, said he spoke to the commissioner for 10-15 minutes Monday afternoon.

“He was like, ‘This doesn’t need to be a dark day for baseball. This needs to be the beginning of the good stuff,’” Francona said. “He said it a little better, but I agree with him. I think Major League Baseball did something that was really difficult. Sometimes the right thing is difficult.

“Our game is played by humans. When there is a human element, there’s going to be mistakes. But the idea is to get it right, and we have really good people working to get it right.”

No Indians players were disciplined, but former Cleveland shortstop/third baseman Jhonny Peralta, now with the Tigers, drew a 50-game suspension and began serving it Monday.

Peralta apologized through a statement, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland refused to comment, kicking reporters out of his office after he was asked about the subject.

Some Indians players refused to comment on the suspensions, but a number supported the ruling.

“We’ve been going in the right direction for a long time,” said veteran designated hitter Jason Giambi, who admitted to steroid use earlier in his career. “Human beings are going to make mistakes. But it shows that Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to go in the right direction.

“It’s an unfortunate thing. It’s not something you want to keep going on. But you’re dealing with human beings and they’re going to keep making mistakes. The biggest thing is we’re going in the right direction and hopefully this is a start and hopefully it will keep getting better and better.”

“I want people to treat our game with respect,” Francona said. “I think the more you’re around the players, I think you realize how respectful the majority of the players are in our game. We have a wonderful game.”

Francona took a parting shot at those harshly criticizing baseball for yet more PED violations.

“For whatever reason, when football does it, (the suspensions are) in the transactions and it’s over — four games,” he said. “I don’t know why. That doesn’t mean two wrongs make a right, but I’m still not sure why.”

Central showdown

Francona takes the day-by-day approach, but he allowed that the four-game series with Central Division-leading Detroit held extra significance.

“This should be a lot of fun,” said Francona, whose team entered the series trailing the Tigers by three games and with just three wins in 12 games against Detroit. “They’re the best team. They’ve been there, they done it. We’ve played to the point where we’re in August (and we’re still in it). I hope our guys enjoy the (heck) out of these four days.

“If your pulse isn’t going now, you’re probably semi-comatose. This is fun. We’re in the middle of August and every game is so meaningful, and that’s a lot of fun.”

Francona was asked if he felt a sense of pride for helping the Indians turn the corner this year.

“I don’t know if the corner gets turned until the season’s over,” he said. “There’s no guarantees on where the season’s going to end, but it’s been enjoyable trying to see how good we can get.”

Salazar’s status

With Detroit in town, the Indians wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to employ red-hot right-hander Danny Salazar. Salazar, who is 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 games (13 starts) for Triple-A Columbus, is expected to be promoted today or Wednesday and has already been named Wednesday’s starter.

The Indians have been cautious with Salazar, who missed much of the 2011 season after Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He’s already made one brilliant spot start for Cleveland, allowing a run on two hits, while striking out seven over six innings of a 4-2 win over Toronto on July 11.

“I think we thought it was a good time,” Francona said. “We’ve tried to balance all year Danny’s innings, competitiveness, things like that. We wanted to get to a point where we didn’t have to bring Danny (up) and mess his innings up.

“He’s been pitching very well, so competitively, it should help us and we’re not getting into an innings crunch. We think we’ve got balance there.”

Salazar will take the turn of right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who will be pushed back to Friday. It is expected to be just another spot start for Salazar, with the Indians needing to clear a roster spot when he is activated. Newly acquired left-hander Marc Rzepczynski has minor league options and could be sent to Columbus for a spell, with lefty Rich Hill pitching better as of late.

Roundin’ third

The Indians posted their major league-leading 15th shutout Sunday. It’s the most since 17 in 1976 for Cleveland, which hasn’t led the majors in the category since 1956.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.