CLEVELAND -- Nyjer Morgan’s alter ego, the flamboyant “Tony Plush,” has yet to make an appearance yet, but Morgan has been plenty evident for the Indians this season.
Morgan, a five-year veteran who played in Japan last season, is back for his second stint with the Indians after filling in admirably for injured center fielder Michael Bourn to start 2013.
Morgan has been a surprising catalyst over 13 games, batting .297 with four RBIs, five runs and an on-base percentage of .400.
“From the minute we met him in Goodyear (Ariz.), he’s been the same guy,” manager Terry Francona said of Morgan, who made the Opening Day roster out of spring training, thanks to Bourn’s unavailability, “enthusiastic, wanting to play -- he’s done a really good job for us. He’s been on base 40 percent of the time. He’s been good.”
Once Bourn was activated from the disabled list, Morgan was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. But with Bourn already missing 19 games, and with utility infielder Elliot Johnson no longer on the roster, Morgan may have secured a spot on the team for an extended spell.
“Everything is good,” Morgan said after Wednesday’s win against the Twins. “I just want to continue showing what I have, keep bringing energy for the boys and leave it all out on the table and show them what I can do.”
Morgan, 33, has been able to focus on his role with the Indians, but he admitted “Tony Plush” nearly came alive Wednesday night after he leapt at the wall to rob Minnesota’s Josmil Pinto of extra bases. Morgan strutted around in the outfield and pointed in at Cleveland pitcher Danny Salazar after the circus catch, but scoffed when he was told his reaction was “priceless.”
“Oh no, you didn’t see nothin’,” Morgan said. “No, no, no. I was about to act out, but I had to stay humble. I had to stay within myself. My boy ‘T. Plush’ was about to come back out from vacation on that one. It was a great play.
“I kind of blacked out there. I was thinking about acting up and throwing on a performance, but I was like, ‘No, let me stay humble here.’”
As expected, Bourn (left hamstring tightness) returned to the lineup after a four-game absence, starting in center field and batting leadoff.
Bourn, who is batting .250 with five RBIs over 16 games, went hitless in four official at-bats, striking out twice and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
Lending a hand
Carlos Santana hasn’t taken his offensive struggles -- .143 over 34 games -- to the field. The converted third baseman, who has two errors, has handled himself well at his new position, turning in a number of fielding gems Wednesday night.
“What we try to talk about so much is just play the game,” Francona said. “When you’re scuffling somewhere, if you can pick it up somewhere else, it makes you feel better.
“If you’re just worried about your at-bats, it makes the game harder. It is hard. Everybody wants to hit .300. But when you can go out and do other things, it not only helps you, it helps the team. It just works.”
The Indians are on the road for the next seven days, beginning a three-game series at Tampa Bay tonight at 7:10.
Corey Kluber (2-3, 3.60 ERA) opens the set, opposing RHP Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.38), while Zach McAllister (3-2, 3.18) starts for Cleveland on Saturday (7:10 p.m.) against LHP Erik Bedard (1-1, 4.35).
Josh Tomlin (1-0, 1.35) goes for the Indians in the series finale Sunday (1:40 p.m., while the Rays counter with RHP Chris Archer (2-1, 4.91).
- Columbus catcher Roberto Perez hit his fifth homer in a 7-0 win over Rochester on Wednesday. Perez, a 33rd-round draft pick in 2008, entered Thursday batting .338 with 17 RBIs in 22 games.
- Advanced Class A Carolina’s Anthony Gallas hit his fifth homer in an 8-7 win at Lynchburg. Gallas, a Strongsville High graduate and Kent State product, was batting .321 with 12 RBIs in 27 games through Wednesday.
- The Indians, who are 4-11, improved to 12-8 at home.
- Mike Aviles is batting .545 (12-for-22) with five multihit efforts over his last seven games.
- Tonight, 7:10 p.m., STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM.