Cleveland’s younger players have stepped up since the club traded away many of its veterans last month. The Indians hope that continues, especially if Travis Hafner(notes) has to miss significant time.
Unsure of when their designated hitter will be available, the Indians close a four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on Sunday, looking to win their third straight series.
Cleveland (58-71) rallied for its sixth win in eight games Saturday, beating Baltimore 5-3. Andy Marte(notes) hit a three-run homer in the sixth to give the Indians the lead while rookie Matt LaPorta(notes) had a career-high four hits.
LaPorta has at least one hit in all 10 games he’s played since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, batting .410 in that stretch. Marte is hitting .417 during a 10-game hitting streak of his own in the exact same span.
“You like players to step up at the right time, and both those kids have lately,” manager Eric Wedge said.
The excitement over Cleveland’s late-season surge was tempered somewhat by the news Hafner could be sidelined for several days with soreness in his left shoulder.
Hafner underwent right shoulder surgery in the offseason and was on the disabled list earlier this year. If his other shoulder is still bothering him Sunday, the Indians said he’ll be examined in Cleveland on Monday - an off day for the team.
“It will be interesting to see how he feels tomorrow,” Wedge said. “If it’s the same tomorrow, (he’s) definitely going to have it looked at.”
Hafner, who is hitting .272 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs in 72 games, was one of the club’s more experienced players left after the Indians made a series of trades in the past month dealing away veterans, including All-Star catcher Victor Martinez(notes) and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee(notes). Reliever Rafael Betancourt(notes), outfielder Ben Francisco(notes) and Ryan Garko(notes) were also jettisoned.
Cleveland will hand the ball Sunday to Justin Masterson(notes) (4-5, 4.47 ERA), who fell to 1-2 since joining the rotation earlier this month after giving up four runs in six innings of a 6-2 loss to the Royals on Tuesday.
The right-hander has made four relief appearances and one start against the Orioles, all of them while pitching for Boston. The lone start came at Fenway Park, where Masterson allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings of a 12-1 victory on April 20.
The Orioles (53-77) are looking to salvage a split of this series after failing to protect a 2-1 lead Saturday before a 1 hour, 37-minute rain delay in the bottom of the fifth. After the game resumed, Cleveland scored three times in the sixth off Chris Ray(notes).
Rookie Brian Matusz(notes) (2-2, 6.46) takes the mound Sunday for the Orioles after failing to receive a decision against Minnesota on Tuesday. In his fifth career start, he allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings of a 7-6 loss.
The 22-year-old left-hander has never faced the Indians.