CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona provided injury updates on the four outfielders on the disabled list — Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin and Brandon Guyer — and a couple of his starting pitchers, right-hander Danny Salazar and lefty Ryan Merritt.
Chisenhall, who has been sidelined since April 8 with a right calf strain, has begun a minor league rehab assignment and was at Progressive Field prior to the series opener with Houston on Thursday.
“That’s good for our guys,” Francona said of players being around their teammates as they attempt to return from injury. “As they get closer, it spurs them on. They get in their normal routines. I think it’s really good for (Chisenhall).”
Chisenhall has made two rehab appearances for Triple-A Columbus (2-for-3, double, RBI) and is expected to resume his rehab stint today, playing 5-7 innings in two straight games.
Francona said Zimmer (left rib contusion) could begin a rehab assignment as early as this weekend. He’s been sidelined since May 12, as has Naquin (left hamstring strain).
“He actually sprinted a little today,” Francona said of Naquin. “He’s doing all his baseball activities. So he’s heading in the right direction.”
Guyer (neck strain) is also nearing a rehab stint.
With all of the injured outfielders expected to return around the same time, and veteran Melky Cabrera already on the roster, the Indians will have decisions to make in the near future.
“We’ve got so many (outfielders). They all can’t play,” Francona said. “We’ll try to figure that out.”
Salazar, who was expected to fill a spot in the rotation, has yet to appear in a game this season as he continues to deal with right shoulder issues.
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“He’s still experiencing the symptoms,” said Francona, noting the team sent Salazar to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Meister. “It’s hard because he’s still feeling something.”
Francona said the Indians are considering bringing Salazar back from extended spring training in Goodyear, Ariz., so Cleveland’s medical staff can examine him.
Merritt, who is on the 60-day DL and isn’t expected to pitch until the start of June at the earliest, was previously sidelined by a left knee sprain. His latest ailment is an arm issue.
“He hasn’t been able to progress through that point where he feels like himself,” Francona said of Merritt, who made one rehab appearance for Columbus on May 4 before being shut down again. “He’s just got a little bit of a dead-arm feeling.”
Andrew Miller looked more like himself over his last two appearances through Wednesday. The left-hander missed two weeks with a left hamstring strain, then struggled upon leaving the DL, dealing with a back issue as well.
“Hopefully, now that he’s pitched a couple of times and he’ll stay healthy, you’ll start to see the Andrew that we’ve really come to rely on,” Francona said of Miller, who pitched 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings and struck out two in a 1-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
May has been good to shortstop Francisco Lindor, who entered Thursday batting .384 (33-for-86) with eight home runs, 10 doubles, 16 RBIs and 21 runs in 20 games during the month.
Through Wednesday, Lindor ranked among the American League leaders in eight offensive categories, including multihit games (fourth, 19), extra-base hits (second, 18) and slugging percentage (sixth, .571).
Left fielder Michael Brantley has also been hot this month, entering Thursday on a 12-game hitting streak (longest active streak in the majors)and batting .333 (27-for-81) with five homers and 20 RBIs (fourth in the majors) in May.
He ranked second in the AL with a .338 batting average in 37 games through Wednesday.
Though it is almost always challenging, Francona enjoys when his team plays the defending world champion Astros.
“Even last year, before they won the World Series, the way they played the game really stood out,” he said. “They had all these good young players and then they went out and got (Josh) Reddick and (Carlos) Beltran and (Brian) McCann. Those types of guys really seemed to solidify what they were. And they just took off.
“They’re fun to play, not because you think you’re going to push them around, but because they play so well. They’re really fun to play. I don’t think it ever means that you’re going to back down from competing, but I think it’s OK to respect how good they are.”
Cleveland went 5-1 against Houston last year but dropped two of three to the Astros on their most recent road trip.
- The Indians led the majors with 123 runs in May, averaging 6.15 per game.
- Cleveland entered Thursday ranked third in the AL with 68 homers.