CLEVELAND — The Indians still aren’t saying who will take the place of demoted pitcher Jeremy Sowers, who was scheduled to start Thursday in the series finale against Florida before being optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea but we’re going to keep it under our hat, because we’re not 100 percent sure,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ve got a short list.”
According to Wedge, who said a decision is likely to come today, that list is made up entirely of minor league pitchers, with no one in Cleveland’s bullpen considered an option. The strongest candidates are Buffalo’s Jason Stanford, Sean Smith and Jake Dittler.
Smith and Dittler have pitched out of the Bisons’ rotation and bullpen, with Stanford returning from Tommy John surgery to pitch well in 12 games (4-1, 3.41 ERA), 11 as a starter.
Whoever is called up, they are expected to make two starts at the most before being replaced by Jake Westbrook, who is on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle and is scheduled to make his third rehab appearance Wednesday at Single-A Lake County.
Both Dittler and Smith have minor league options and can be sent back down without risk. Stanford is without options and would have to clear waivers before returning to Buffalo.
Westbrook did not look ready to return in his first two rehab appearances, allowing nine runs on 12 hits in 32/3 innings for Buffalo and Double-A Akron.
“I think it’s just him working his way back into it,” said Wedge of the right-hander, who hasn’t pitched since May 2.
This was Wedge’s summation of the Indians’ offensive performance Sunday in a 1-0, 12-inning loss to the Reds: “(Sunday) was well beyond what you could ever find acceptable.”
Negotiations are under way with the Indians’ first-round draft choice (13th overall) Beau Mills, an infielder out of Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), an NAIA school.
According to assistant general manager John Mirabelli, both sides have made proposals.
“I don’t think we’re worlds apart but the market clearly hasn’t established itself,” Mirabelli said. “I know that we want the player a lot and I know he’s very anxious to begin his career. When you have those two ingredients, usually a deal gets done. I’m very optimistic.”
The Indians have until midnight Aug. 15 to sign Mills or lose the rights to him.
The Mariners were not happy with taking a detour to Cleveland to make up another snow-out before beginning a three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs — especially outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who apparently isn’t a big fan of the rock and roll capital.
“To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to,” Ichiro told Seattle reporters through an interpreter Sunday. “If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”
The Indians return to the road for another interleague series, traveling to Florida for a three-game set with the Marlins that opens tonight at 7:05.
Fausto Carmona (7-1, 3.11) starts in the opener, opposing left-hander Scott Olsen (4-5, 5.27).
Cliff Lee (2-4, 6.31) is the scheduled starter Wednesday (7:05), while the Marlins counter with right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim (3-2, 5.74).
The Indians have yet to name a starter for the series finale Thursday (7:05). Florida will go with lefty Dontrelle Willis (7-5, 4.73).
According to Wedge, prized pitching prospect Adam Miller (strained middle finger) is close to returning to the mound. Miller hasn’t pitched since May 12.
l The news isn’t as bright where Buffalo outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and Class A Kinston pitcher David Huff are concerned. Choo is on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation, while Huff, the team’s top draft pick (39th overall) last year, is headed there with elbow problems as well.
Travis Hafner was at first base for two of three games at Cincinnati, and according to Wedge, will be there for the series opener at Florida tonight. Hafner, who has started six times at first this season, has not made an error.
l With Paul Byrd on the mound and his personal catcher Kelly Shoppach behind the plate, Victor Martinez got the night off. Martinez has started 53 of the Indians’ 61 games, 45 at catcher.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137