CLEVELAND — Austin Jackson will be activated from the disabled list prior to tonight’s series opener against the Angels, Indians manager Terry Francona said Monday.
Jackson has spent two separate stints on the injured list, the most recent issue — a left quad strain — sidelining him since
June 27. When he’s been on the field, Jackson has been solid, batting .304 with three home runs and 15 RBIs over 37 games.
“When he came back last time, he was hitting the ball to right-center with authority so it kind of gave us that bat, because he has never really been a huge split guy, versus left, versus right,” Francona said. “So you know, with Lonnie (Chisenhall) out, that can certainly help.”
Jackson’s return likely means less playing time for rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer, who has struggled mightily since moving into the leadoff spot — .111 with two RBIs in nine starts.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Francona said. “One, (it) depends on how guys are swinging, and Lonnie’s going to be coming back in a couple weeks, so we’ll see. It’s been nice to play Zim now ’cause we kind of wanted to. When you have alternatives ... we’ll see. We certainly want (Brandon) Guyer to play against lefties and, if Austin’s on the roster, you certainly want to play him against left-handers, even some right-handers.”
Zimmer started strong at the plate but his batting average had dropped to .261 in 58 games through Sunday.
“I think, for the most part, Zim has done a really good job,” Francona said of the speedy 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. “I think we all felt like there was no way he was going to go 200, 300 at-bats without having some periods (of struggles) just like most guys do, especially a young kid with some longer levers. I think that his center field play has been amazingly consistent at a really high level.
“And for a young hitter, like I said with the long levers, he’s done a really good job of working counts. He hasn’t necessarily always (translated that) into getting hits or production, but those types of characteristics will certainly help him as he gains experience.”
Chisenhall (right calf strain) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (right hamstring strain) took batting practice on the field and did some light running prior to Monday’s game.
“They are kind of graduating to like baseball (activities),” Francona said. “They are doing some things like (moving) left to right, maybe making some left turns. Just kind of graduate into the next set of volume, intensity. They’re building into things before they actually do it on the field.”
Both players are expected to return before the end of August, with Chisenhall likely to be back sooner than Kipnis.
Finally, an HR
Left fielder Michael Brantley hit his first homer since April 30 on Sunday. The long-ball drought was not a concern for Francona.
“Not Brantley. I never even thought to say anything to him,” Francona said of the All-Star, who entered Monday batting .303 with six homers, 19 doubles, 44 RBIs and a .440 slugging percentage over 75 games. “He’s so consistent. As long as he’s driving the ball in the gaps and stuff and getting the production. His at-bats are so good, especially with men on base.
“You get a runner on third in this day and age in baseball, you just don’t see a lot of guys alter their at-bats much. They just kind of hit how they hit. And Brant’s one of the few, you very rarely see him pull off with a runner on third. He makes that pitcher beat him, because he knows the one way they’re going to get out of it is if he pulls off and rolls over, and he doesn’t do that. It’s really impressive.”
Indians players were apparently aware of the homer slump for Brantley. They all gave him the cold shoulder when he returned to the dugout following his two-run shot in the sixth inning.
“I didn’t even think about it,” Francona said. “I looked around and then I saw that nobody was (reacting), and I was cracking up. So I went over and told him, I said, ‘I’ll give you a little love,’ because everybody was just, nothing. I think stuff like that’s funny.”
The Indians wrap the homestand with a three-game series against the Angels that begins tonight at 7:10.
Mike Clevinger (5-3, 2.73 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing right-hander Jesse Chavez (5-10, 4.88).
Carlos Carrasco (10-4, 3.62) and Trevor Bauer (8-8, 5.58) start for the Indians on Wednesday (7:10 p.m.) and Thursday (12:10 p.m.), respectively, but Los Angeles has yet to name pitchers for the final two games of the series.
- With Sunday’s win at Progressive Field, the Indians reached the .500 level at home for the first time since May 15 (8-8).
- Edwin Encarnacion entered Monday leading the majors with 46 interleague homers since the start of the 2010 season.