CLEVELAND -- Leonys Martin’s failure to produce offensively ultimately cost him his job.
Martin, who hit only .199 with nine home runs, 19 RBIs and a .276 on-base percentage over 65 games, was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Saturday’s starting pitcher, Aaron Civale.
Martin, who battled a life-threatening illness shortly after being acquired at the trading deadline last year, was involved in a dugout argument with shortstop Francisco Lindor in Texas on Thursday, but team president Chris Antonetti said it had no impact on the decision.
“No effect,” Antonetti said prior to Saturday’s game. “I mean, unfortunately, Leonys has just had a really difficult time getting going offensively and we feel that there are guys that are capable and have earned some more of those at-bats, and that kind of led to the decision.
“It was a difficult move for us organizationally with all we’ve been through with Leonys, but at this point we felt that it was the right thing to do for our team. We’ve got a lot of moving parts right now and expect there to be some forthcoming moves that will rebalance our roster over the next few days.”
The emergence of rookie Oscar Mercado — .303, 13 RBIs, 26 runs over 31 games — made the decision easier. Jordan Luplow and Tyler Naquin have also produced more than Martin.
“Oscar was a big part of the equation,” Antonetti said. “I think his continued development and emergence as a really productive major league player for us helped nudge that decision. But it’s also a factor of the way some of the other guys have performed as well, because we feel some of the guys on our roster have earned some more at-bats and we can better allocate playing time differently than we have over the last couple of weeks.”
The Indians are expected to make multiple moves over the next few days. One of them is likely to include Triple-A Columbus slugger Bobby Bradley, who leads the International League with 24 homers and a .638 slugging percentage.
“It’s exciting to think about Bobby’s future. At some point we expect that he’ll be here to help us,” Antonetti said. “We need to get through today first, and then we’ll figure out what the best thing is for our roster the next few days, but I expect we’ll have other moves. We won’t continue to carry this many pitchers. As much as Tito likes relievers, at some point we need to rebalance the roster.”
Buyers or sellers?
Antonetti was asked if the Indians’ recent play — 11-5 over their last 16 games through Friday — has changed the approach at the trading deadline.
“I don’t think any two-week period will, but we have about five weeks to assess where we are as a team and what things we may or may not want to do to make adjustments,” he said. “So we have a little bit of time to work through that. But it won’t be focused on any short-term assessment.
“One of the things we always have to do in our position is figure out how do we balance the near term with the long term. Every decision we make we’ll have to weigh both of those two things. There are times when we place a heavy emphasis on the short term and what’s in front of us at the expense of the long term and there are times that we make decisions that are more long-term focused. Exactly where we’ll be on that balance in July is really hard to predict. But that’s something we will have to weigh.”
Second baseman Jason Kipnis entered Saturday 10-for-22 with three homers and 11 RBIs over his last six games, raising his batting average from .207 to .233. He was hitting .275 (14-for-51) with an OPS of .831 in June through Friday.
“For me, personally, it’s always been where if I get my hands in the right place, everything falls into line in terms of balance at the plate, approach, takes, swings, aggression at the plate,” he said. “Everything falls back into place. I’m like ‘Thank God, there it is.’ Instead of guessing on the pitch or reaching out at pitches, now I’m confident waiting for anything that’s in the zone. I’m very happy with where things are.”
So is Antonetti.
“It’s been really fun to see over the last few days. You can see the difference he can make on our team when he’s playing the way he’s capable of playing,” he said. “To see him use the whole field and really drive the ball with authority from left-center field to down the right field line, it’s been really fun to see. Even his infectious energy over the last couple days was contagious within the team. It’s been great to see. Hopefully he keeps it going.”
Carlos Carrasco, who is out with a non-baseball medical condition, was in the clubhouse prior to Saturday’s game.
“He’s making progress,” Antonetti said. “He’s working through his treatment and that’s really all I can say. Beyond that, we really can’t elaborate a whole lot, other than he’s doing well.”
Carrasco, who has been sidelined since June 2, has yet to discuss his medical condition with the media.
The Indians entered Saturday owning a 12-6 record in June, the best winning percentage (.667) in the American League and fifth-best in the majors.
** Civale is the fifth player to make his major league debut with the Indians this year, joining Mercado, Plesac, Josh Smith and Eric Stamets.
** Today, 1:10 p.m., STO; WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Plesac (2-2, 2.56) vs. Norris (2-5, 4.40).