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Cleveland Indians

Searching for No. 2

By Sheldon Published: April 28, 2009

This is not the first time manager Eric Wedge has searched for an effective hitter to bat second in the Indians' lineup.

In fact, it has been an issue for the past few seasons. So it's no surprise that the problem has arisen again, though when Mark DeRosa was aquired over the winter, Wedge thought that General Manager Mark Shapiro had resolved the problem.

But in 17 games batting behind leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore, DeRosa batted .203 with 11 runs and seven walks in 74 at-bats. 

"Mark knows as well as anybody that he needs to get going, and he will,'' Wedge said. "I think it will help him, take the heat off him to drop down a little in the order (to eighth Tuesday night).''

Wedge elevated Asdrubal Cabrera from ninth in the lineup to second on Sunday, and he has stayed there for three consecutive games. Why Cabrera? He has been successful in that role before.

"I think he fits there,'' Wedge said. "He did a great job for us in 2007. He was as important as anybody in our lineup in the second half.''

Cabrera was only a rookie two years ago, but his workmanship at the plate and in the field helped the Tribe win a Central Division title. In 120 at-bats as the No. 2 hitter, Cabrera batted .283 with seven doubles, two home runs, 17 RBI and 21 runs.

He struggled in 2008 virtually everywhere in the lineup. He spent only 46 at-bats as the No. 2 hitter, batting .196.

Cabrera doesn't care where he hits.

"I just want to do my job,'' he said. ""It doesn't matter where I hit. But I feel good batting there.''

In his first two games hitting behind Sizemore, Cabrera doubled, singled, walked, scored and drove in a run in seven at-bats. That includes an 0-for-4 against Red Sox knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield, who allowed one hit in seven innings Monday night.

"He's really learning to be more disciplined at the plate, both in using the whole field and his pitch selection,'' Wedge said. ""You see him taking more pitches.''

As proof, Cabrera has walked an average of once very five at-bats. In his first two seasons, he walked only once every 8.1 at-bats.

"The No. 2 hitter has to be able to manipulate the bat head, play the short game and move guys around,'' Wedge said. ""I think it's a very underrated spot in the order.''

A LITTLE EARLY -- With phenom outfielder Matt LaPorta hitting over .400 at Columbus, Wedge was asked about the chances he soon will be called up. 

"It's so early in the season,'' he said. ""We monitor things in Triple-A, and we monitor things here, and we will make changes when needed. That's just part of the regular season.''

But Wedge discouraged the idea that calling up one rookie would resolve the team's problems.

"The reality is that the people here are the ones who have to make the difference for us,'' he said. ""The difference makers are our core players who are here. LaPorta is so young, just out of college. He's off to a good start, and his day will come.''

UNDER THE KNIFE -- An initial report on the outcome of the surgery to repair Adam Miller's right middle finger at Curtis Hand Clinic in Baltimore Tuesday afternoon is expected today.

"I just feel bad for the kid,'' Wedge said. ""He's a good kid, and he's had so many setbacks. Hopefully, he can come back from this.''

Even if the surgery is successful, a buildup of scar tissue in the cramped confines of Miller's finger could put his career in jeopardy.

HIS TIME COMING -- David Dellucci probably won't have to serve out the entire 20 days of his rehab assignment at Columbus.

"It probably will be some time next week,'' Wedge said of the probability of Dellucci being activated.

Wedge indicated that Dellucci's return might be tied into reducing the bullpen from eight pitchers to seven.

THE CLUE -- It wasn't difficult to tell that Wakefield's knuckleball was fluttering exceptionally well Monday night, inasmuch as Tribe hitters were rarely able to square it up.

Another hint was the manner in which he struck out five batters.

"When he's striking out guys on pitches in the (strike) zone, not in the dirt or out of the zone, you know he has a good one going,'' Ryan Garko said.

FARM FACTS -- Dellucci was 3-for-4 to raise his average to .458 in Columbus' 9-6 loss to Toledo.

Michael Aubrey homered and doubled, driving in two runs to lift his average to .438...Karexon Sanchez homered and Nate Recknagel drove in three runs with a double, as Lake County beat Hagerstown 8-4. T.J. House (1-1, 1.53 ERA) gave up one run and four hits in six innings.

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