MINNEAPOLIS -- There were times when Jason Kipnis had trouble getting to his locker inside the American League's clubhouse during All-Star week. That was due to the fact that Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was positioned in the adjacent stall.
Rivera plans on retiring at the end of the season, and the All-Star Game served as a kind of farewell celebration for the game's all-time saves leader. Needless to say, Rivera drew a constant crowd throughout the festivities at Citi Field earlier this week.
"I couldn't even get to my locker sometimes," Kipnis said. "That guy had a lot busier couple days than I did. But to be able to play behind him for his last All-Star Game appearance, that's going to be one of the things I'll take away the most."
Kipnis was at Target Field on Friday, reunited with his Indians teammates for the start of the season's second half. The second baseman reflected on his first All-Star Game experience, which he said he will always cherish for his part in Rivera's sendoff.
Kipnis entered the game in the seventh inning and stepped to the plate in the eighth, when he drilled a pitch from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to left field for a run-scoring double. Kipnis gloved a grounder from Milwaukee's Jean Segura in the bottom of the eighth with Rivera on the mound for the final time as an All-Star.
"I'm not going to lie, for a while I didn't want a ball hit to me," Kipnis said. "I almost wanted to just sit there and watch, and I didn't want to screw anything up. Of course, the first guy hits it my way."
Kipnis also caught the game's final out to seal a 3-0 win for the American League, but the ball did not wind up in the second baseman's equipment bag. He gave it to Texas closer Joe Nathan, who sealed the game and, in turn, delivered the ball to Rivera.
The more All-Star Games Kipnis has under his belt, the more likely it is that he will be recognizable.
Consider that an employee assigned to help Kipnis welcomed him to New York as "Mr. Swisher," referring to Indians outfielder Nick Swisher. There was also a moment when a fan walked right by Kipnis and instead asked one of his brothers for an autograph.
"I can blend in usually and keep my head down and walk by people," Kipnis said. "My brother is 6-foot-2 and in shape. I'm not surprised at all that they thought he was a player and I wasn't."
That might change over time.
"I hope so," Kipnis said with a laugh. "I'd appreciate it."
Tribe eyeing Tuesday return for McAllister
MINNEAPOLIS -- Zach McAllister stood in front of his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Target Field and declared himself ready to return to the Indians' rotation. The team plans on waiting until after the pitcher's next bullpen session to make its final decision.
As far as McAllister is concerned, though, he answered any lingering doubts about his right middle finger injury during a six-inning Minor League rehab outing with Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. The big right-hander hopes his next start will be on Tuesday against the Mariners.
"I feel like I'm ready," McAllister said. "That's up to them to decide that, but from my standpoint, I feel like I'm ready. I have the confidence in my curveball, which to me was one of my biggest things. I feel like that's there now."
McAllister was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 8 with a sprained right middle finger, which caused the most discomfort when throwing his curve. That pitch was the last step of a gradual throwing program over the past month, and he threw it comfortably throughout his rehab start with Columbus on Thursday.
Over six shutout innings, McAllister scattered two hits and finished with two strikeouts and a pair of walks. The right-hander logged 69 pitches in the game and said he added 20 more off a mound in the bullpen. The next step is for McAllister to throw a bullpen session on Saturday at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Indians manager Terry Francona said there is a good chance that McAllister will indeed be activated from the DL to start on Tuesday in Seattle, if the bullpen session goes well.
"What we're going to do is let him throw his side," Francona said on Friday, "and then kind of make the final decision. We don't really have to do it today, and we'll see how he bounces back. We'll see how he throws his 'pen, but everything is leaning towards him pitching [on Tuesday].
"I think we're all in agreement that this is probably going to happen."
McAllister went 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts prior to his injury. After opening the season with a 4-3 record and a 2.89 ERA through nine starts, McAllister posted a 6.52 ERA and allowed 17 hits in 9 2/3 innings combined over his last two outings.
Gomes thrilled by encouragement from Pele
MINNEAPOLIS -- Yan Gomes is currently the face of baseball in his home country of Brazil. The face of sports in his homeland simply goes by one name: Pele.
Imagine Gomes' surprise over the All-Star break when Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer player, posted a pair of encouraging messages on Twitter about the young Indians catcher. Gomes was ecstatic that one of his country's premiere sports heroes had reached out to him.
"That was freaking awesome, man," Gomes said with a smile. "Can you imagine Babe Ruth tweeting you?"
The two posts from Pele landed on Monday.
"[Gomes] is such an inspiration for all the Brazilian kids dreaming to play in the [MLB] one day," Pele wrote. "All my encouragement to [Gomes] in his mission to promote baseball in Brazil."
Gomes said it took him a couple of hours to respond, because the catcher was so nervous.
"A lot of people were going to see it, especially in Brazil," Gomes said. "I wanted to make sure I said the right things."
When he finally logged in to his profile page, Gomes wrote: "What a great honor to receive support from [Pele] a great person who has inspired myself and so many others!"
Gomes, who is the only Brazilian-born player to reach the Major Leagues, hopes he can do the same for kids pursuing baseball in his country.
"I just try to set a good example," Gomes said. "That's pretty much it. I want to set a good example for guys and whenever I go down to Brazil, to inspire others."
Quote to note
"So many things can happen and [manager Jim Leyland] wanted to make sure [Yankees closer Mariano Rivera] pitched. Everything Leyland does, there's a reason, and the word 'respect' will always be attached to it. Nobody would be more prepared for [Rivera] in that game than him. I knew that going in. And he cares so much about the respect of baseball." --Francona, on Leyland using Rivera in the eighth inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game
• Indians designated hitter Mark Reynolds was out of the lineup for the final two games of the first half and he remained out for Friday's game in Minnesota. Francona said he was giving Reynolds, who is hitting .178 over his past 61 games, a break, but the manager also noted that he wanted to have Gomes paired with starter Scott Kazmir.
Entering Friday, Kazmir had a 3.26 ERA in 58 innings with Gomes compared to a 7.39 ERA in 28 innings with catcher Carlos Santana. With Gomes behind the plate, Santana slid into the DH role, pushing Reynolds to the bench.
"I really wanted Gomes to catch Kaz, because he's done such a good job with him," Francona explained. "So that sort of takes one spot away. But [Reynolds] will be in there [on Saturday]. ... We do want to get him on a roll."
• Indians rotation leader Justin Masterson did not pitch in the All-Star Game for the American League on Tuesday, but Cleveland did not consider bringing him back to start the opener of the second half on Friday. Francona said it was more important to stick with the schedule that was put together before the break. Masterson is slated to start on Sunday.
"We wanted all five guys to know when they were pitching coming out of the break," Francona said. "I didn't want them to have to watch the game and then throw a side in their backyard. We leaned on Masty pretty hard in the first half. We're going to lean on him again, so having a couple extra days won't kill him."
• Indians pitcher Brett Myers, who has been on the disabled list since April 20 due to a right elbow injury, has been shut down from throwing again. Francona said there is no established timetable for Myers to resume a throwing program.
"He's down for right now," Francona said. "The hope is that maybe we give him another break and give him another shot at it. I know we're getting to that point in the year where it's getting tougher. But, to his credit, he wants to keep trying. As long as he does, we're OK with that."
• Over the All-Star break, the Indians names Double-A Akron infielder Jose Ramirez as the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for July 8-14. During that time period, Ramirez hit .478 (11-for-23) with three RBIs, six runs scored and a 1.217 OPS. He collected four doubles and one triple in five games.