LOS ANGELES: Indians manager Terry Francona insists an injury didn’t contribute to right-hander Justin Masterson’s three- and four-inning starts in his last two outings, including Tuesday night against the Dodgers.
That’s even considering that Masterson did get an extra two days to rest a sore right knee that he said has bothered him since his second appearance this season.
On Tuesday, Masterson (4-5, 5.16) threw 85 pitches in three innings and the Indians used six relievers in a 10-3 victory in Dodger Stadium. In seven innings of his last two starts, Masterson has given up eight runs on 14 hits, walked seven and struck out 13. He’s thrown 177 pitches, 99 for strikes.
“I think he physically feels pretty good,” Francona said Wednesday. “He’s open to working with [pitching coach] Mickey [Callaway] a lot and that’s good. We’ll fight through it together.”
Francona said Masterson’s problem is mainly command.
“There’s times right now where he’s throwing it and hoping it has some natural movement that will get him out of a jam,” Francona said. “I think some of that is confidence, some of that is repeating. When he gets on a roll, you saw the guy who threw 25 strikes in a row, so it’s there. When it leaves him, and it’s been in maybe bigger spurts lately, I think it all falls on command. He falls behind some guys and he has to throw a ball in there and it gets whacked as opposed to working ahead. He’s got so much deception, when he works ahead it’s filthy.”
Asked how his knee felt Tuesday night, Masterson said, “It was pretty good.”
“I was decently happy with the way things took place,” he said. “We were a lot better in the zone. The slider was good. Sinkers were pretty good and the four-seamer was there. I was pleasantly surprised. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Francona doesn’t believe the stress of Masterson being in the final year of his contract is a factor.
“No. I think Masty’s far from that,” Francona said. “I think what bothers him is when he doesn’t get deep in games. I think he takes a lot of pride in that.”
NOTES — With Thursday’s off day, Francona said the rotation will be backed up a day, rather than skipping someone. … Catcher Roberto Perez and infielder Jesus Aguilar of the Columbus Clippers were selected for the Triple-A all-star game. Manager Chris Treme and pitching coach Tony Arnold will serve on the staff of manager Charlie Montoyo of the Durham Bulls. … Nick Swisher has been named one of six finalists for the second annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. Winners in the categories of Navy chief petty officer, hall of famer and major-leaguer will be honored in Washington on Veterans Day.
— Marla Ridenour