Masterson confident he will pitch again in '13
Indians right-hander pleased with rehab progress from oblique injury
CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Justin Masterson exudes positivity and optimism by nature. It should come as no surprise then that the sidelined Indians sinkerballer believes he will start again before the end of the regular season.
It is worth noting, however, that manager Terry Francona shares that belief.
"I need to be a little careful saying that," Francona cautioned, "because I don't want to push somebody to do something they're not supposed to. So, I don't say that very often, but I watch him walking around, and I talk to the trainers. It wouldn't shock me [if he returns before season's end].
"Again, I don't want to create unrealistic expectations for him, and put him through that, but if it's at all possible, he'll do it."
Masterson, who suffered a strained left oblique in his start against the Orioles on Sept. 2, described his situation as "status quo" prior to Monday night's game against the Royals. The right-hander continues to undergo treatment for his ailing left side, and hopes to be cleared to resume playing catch at some point during the Indians' upcoming series in Chicago.
Cleveland opens a four-game series with the White Sox on Thursday and, if given the go-ahead, Masterson plans on attacking his rehab more aggressively over the weekend.
"It's really great and it's not tedious whatsoever," joked Masterson, referring to his current rehab routine. "But it does help. Each day, it continues to feel better and that's what you want to have, as far as the feeling goes. I haven't overly tried to test it, because it's better to take it nice and easy at first and be aggressive once it's all the way out of there."
On the season, Masterson has already established career bests with 14 wins and 188 strikeouts, and he has posted a 3.52 ERA in 189 1/3 innings.
Masterson believes he will be able to add more innings to that total before the end of the season.
"Why not?" Masterson said with a grin. "Positive thinking definitely helps the process. It's just the fact of the way I felt when it took place. Sometimes, some other people have much different feelings, much more pain. That's why I feel a little bit more like, 'Hey, we could have this.'"
Ramirez connects in first MLB start vs. KC
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona has been looking for an opportune game to give infielder Jose Ramirez his first Major League start. Ramirez's time arrived on Monday night and Francona smiled at the thought of getting a closer look at the club's No. 13 prospect, according to MLB.com.
Ramirez was in the lineup as the third baseman and was slotted into the eighth spot against the Royals.
"It'll be fun to watch," Francona said. "This isn't going to define his career, and he's not going to be an everyday third baseman, but I wouldn't be surprised if he does something to help spark us."
Ramirez, 20, was added to Cleveland's roster as part of a large group of September callups, but he was the only player summoned from Double-A Akron. The Indians thought highly enough of Ramirez to bring him to the big leagues without first testing him at Triple-A.
Francona said part of the reasoning stemmed from the first impression Ramirez made in Spring Training, when he was called over to big league camp for a handful of games.
"Because of the way he handled himself in Spring Training when he came over," Francona said, "and how he handled himself when he went back to the Minor League side when we sent him back over, and then the tools to be a utility guy in September, he probably fit the role better than anybody.
"And I think when you talk to all the player development guys, they thought he could handle it. You can probably take the safe route, maybe get a veteran. But, I think we all thought this kid can do it."
In 113 games at Akron this season, Ramirez posted a .272/.325/.624 slash line to go along with three home runs, 16 doubles, six triples and 38 RBIs. Along the way, he also collected 38 stolen bases, scored 78 runs and walked (39) nearly as often as he struck out (41). In the field, Ramirez bounced between second base, shortstop and third for the Aeros.
"I've been wanting to get him in a game," Francona said. "If you look at the numbers, it's a nice solid year."
Ramirez wasted little time in connecting for his first Major League hit, sending a pitch from Kansas City's Ervin Santana into left-center field for a leadoff single in the third inning. The Royals tossed the ball back to Cleveland's dugout, giving Ramirez a memento from his first start in The Show.
Veteran Giambi no stranger to milestone hits
CLEVELAND -- Jason Giambi was in the mood to reminisce on Monday afternoon. One day after collecting the 2,000th hit of his career, the veteran slugger sat at his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse and reflected on milestones throughout his career.
Giambi's first hit was a single off Texas' Roger Pavlik on May 8, 1995. His first home run came on July 8 that season off Toronto's David Cone. On Sept. 21, 2008, Giambi singled in the seventh inning against the Orioles, marking the final hit in the long storied history of old Yankee Stadium. This season, the 42-year-old became the oldest player in MLB history to belt a walk-off home run with a shot against the White Sox on July 29.
It has been a long road, but Giambi hopes to keep on traveling next year.
"For sure, yeah. Hopefully here, too," Giambi said. "I love it here. I love the direction we're going and the things we've got going on. I definitely love it here. I feel great. I feel good."
Giambi said he did not envision that he would still be in the Major Leagues after 19 seasons, or that a 20th campaign might be in the cards. After his contract with the Yankees ran out in 2008, he joined the A's knowing that he might be playing on a year-to-year basis.
Giambi struggled in '09 with Oakland, which originally took him in the second round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft, and was released by August that season at his request. He latched on with the Rockies, found a niche as a pinch-hitter and part-time player, and has continued to fill that roll, along with veteran leadership, this year with the Tribe.
"People were like, 'This could be your last year,'" Giambi said of his '09 season. "And then one year turned into another, and then another, and then another, and here I am."
In the ninth inning of Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Mets, Giambi sliced a pitch from LaTroy Hawkins into shallow left field for a single, giving the former slugger 2,000 hits. Giambi became the 14th Major Leaguer since 1916 to achieve at least 400 homers, 1,300 walks, 1,400 RBIs, 2,000 hits and a .400 on-base percentage.
"I love it," Giambi said of his season with the Indians. "My body is holding up. It's good."
Quote to note
"John Montefusco. They called him 'The Count.' I hit a pinch-hit, base hit up the middle in Atlanta. I'll never forget it. It was a fastball. I never hit a curveball, ever."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, recalling his first Major League hit
• The Indians and Royals are scheduled for six meetings over the next 10 days, beginning with Monday night's clash at Progressive Field. Entering Monday, the Tribe had an 8-5 record in the season series, having won three in a row and six of the past eight games.
"They're better now," Francona said. "Early on, their offense wasn't clicking. Now, they've got some guys starting to swing it. They're very athletic. They run the bases. They've got a lot of basestealers. That's part of their game."
• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley rejoined the team on Monday and was in the lineup as the No. 5 hitter for the opener of the three-game series. Brantley had been in Florida with his wife, Melissa, who gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Mariah.
• Entering Monday's game, Kansas City and Cleveland boasted the top two pitching staffs in the American League in the second half. Since the All-Star break, the Royals had posted an AL-best 3.03 ERA, while the Indians were next on the list with a 3.28 ERA.
• In Sunday's loss to the Mets, rookie starter Danny Salazar piled up eight strikeouts in four innings of work. Salazar became only the third Tribe pitcher since at least 1916 to record at least eight strikeouts in four innings or less (Luis Tiant, Aug. 17, 1967; Jeremy Sowers, July 13, 2008).