CLEVELAND: Barring further disabling injuries, by the end of June the Indians' rotation might include most of the players, and more, who started the season.
Before the end of the month, Scott Lewis, Aaron Laffey and Jake Westbrook might rejoin the rotation.
"Laffey (right oblique strain) played catch from 60 feet today for the first time,'' head trainer Lonnie Soloff said Monday. ""His program for now will be to throw for two days and take one day off. He could begin throwing bullpens next week.''
Inasmuch as Laffey has been part of the rotation and part of the bullpen this year, there's a question as to whether he will rehab as a starter or a reliever, which would cut down the innings he needs to pitch before he is activated.
"We haven't made that decision yet, but if I had to guess, I would say Laffey will be a starter,'' manager Eric Wedge said.
A definitive time for Lewis (strained left elbow) to return has not been established, but there's a good chance that he and Westbrook will be activated by the last week of June.
"Nothing is set in stone,'' Soloff said. ""We'll see how he does in simulated games. But he probably will have about the same time frame as Westbrook.''
It is now almost a year since Westbrook underwent right elbow reconstruction surgery, and his throwing program has continued on schedule. He has come to the final challenge of his recovery, going on a rehabilitation assignment.
He is scheduled to pitch three innings for Akron in its game at Altoona Friday.
According to Soloff, ""Jake will progress to four innings his next outing, probably pitch five innings twice and possibly six after that, which will take him to late June.''
If Westbrook maintains a strict schedule and makes all five rehab outings, he could make his first start for the Tribe on June 30.
One starter who will not be returning to the rotation by the end of June is Anthony Reyes, who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Reyes' visit to Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles has been moved from Tuesday to Wednesday.
If he needs surgery, which is expected, he will remain in the California, where Yocum will perform the operation on Friday.
The return of Westbfook, Laffey and Lewis to the active roster would vastly reshape the Indians' rotation, which now includes Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano, Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Sowers and David Huff.
But a month is a long time to stay in the Central Division race with eight players on the DL.
"The guys we've called up here are getting better and better,'' Wedge said. ""One thing we have to do is catch the ball. We can't be giving teams extra outs. We also have to get more consistency from our starters.''
THE PLAN -- Center fielder Grady Sizemore will be out of action at least two more weeks with inflammation of the lining of his left elbow joint.
"An MRI documented that there is no structural damage to the elbow,'' Soloff said. ""We tried to nurse him through for a week (as the DH), trying not to have him miss any time. But it got to a point where the symptoms reached a plateau, and he didn't get any better.''
There's a possibility that Sizemore will undergo arthrscopic surgery, which would keep him on the sidelines 4-6 weeks after end of the DL period.
"Our hope is that by keeping the ball out of his hand for an additional two weeks (until June 15), we can help him overcome this,'' Soloff said. ""At the end of that time, we would see if surgery is necessary.''
The recommended treatment for Sizemore is rest and the administratiion of anti-inflammatory drugs.
BETANCOURT IS NO. 8 -- Rafael Betancourt became the eighth player placed on the 15-day DL Monday with a strained groin.
To take his place on the roster, lefty reliever Tony Sipp was recalled from Columbus.
"This probably will be more than a two-week thing for Betancourt,'' Wedge said.
The Tribe has more players on the DL than any team in the majors except Tampa Bay (9), surpassing the number of times (10) the club has used the DL in 2000 (9) and 2006 (7).
BACK IN THE LINEUP -- After fouling a pitch off his leg and suffering a painful contusion to the knee Saturday night, catcher Victor Martinez returned to the lineup Monday night as the DH.
"If it had hit just right, the ball would have fractured his patella (kneecap),'' Soloff said. ""But he's still going to feel this for a week or two.''
Martinez probably will play first base before he is allowed to go back behind the plate.
HAFNER RETURN UP IN AIR -- Travis Hafner played in his second consecutive game for Columbus Monday night, but with only two days remaining on his 20-day rehab assignment, it is still unclear whether Hafner (sore shoulder) will be activated Thursday or stay on the DL and work out in Arizona.
"I think he's right there on the cusp,'' Wedge said.
Wedge needs to count on Hafner to be available most of the time.
"He's got to be able to plays five or six days a week,'' the manager said. ""I think that would be the best case scenario (to expect).''
FARM FACTS -- Eric Berger (3-3, 2.37 ERA) gave up one run and six hits in five innings, but Kinston lost to Winston-Salem 4-3... Alexander Perez (4-2, 3.02 ERA) gave up one run and two hits in six innings, as Lake County beat West Virginia 4-3.
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