CLEVELAND --- Indians fans got their wish Sunday afternoon.
Triple-A Columbus slugger Bobby Bradley, who leads the International League with 24 home runs and a .638 slugging percentage, was promoted prior to the series finale against Detroit.
He was in the lineup to make his major league debut, playing first base and batting seventh.
“He feels a little stronger, a little better at the plate right now,” manager Terry Francona said of Bradley, who hit .292 with 55 RBIs in 67 games for the Clippers. “He’s in a good place. He’s really excited. It’s fun because these guys, when they come over, now you’re getting to a point in your career, and I remind them of this, that, ‘Hey, you’re here to show us that you can help us win. You’re not just here for a pat on the back and couple at-bats.‘ I think that makes it more exciting for them.”
On the mend
This week will be a big one for ace pitcher Corey Kluber, who will undergo an eight-week evaluation of his right forearm.
“He needs to get a series of scans and continue to first make sure the bone’s fully healed and then once it is we need to continue to build up volume and stress on the arm and that’s what we’re doing now,” team president Chris Antonetti said. “Hopefully at some point next week he’ll begin throwing.”
Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, was 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA this season when he was hit by a line drive May 1 and broke his pitching arm.
What a relief
Led by closer Brad Hand, the Indians’ bullpen continues to lead the majors with a 3.21 ERA through Saturday. Cleveland’s relievers had issued the fewest walks (75) and allowed the fewest runs (93) and earned runs (84) in the majors through Saturday.
“They’re great,” right-hander Trevor Bauer said. “For as much as they were maligned earlier in the year, people talking about bullpen this and bullpen that or whatever, the numbers, they’re actually really, really good. The best bullpen in the league.”
Steal of a deal
It’s looking as though Antonetti and company got the best of the Cardinals when the Indians acquired outfielder Oscar Mercado for a pair of minor league outfielders — Conner Capel and Jhon Torres — at last year’s trade deadline.
“Last year at the deadline, one of the things we sought to do was improve some of our upper-level outfield depth,” Antonetti said. “And we liked Oscar’s skills package and what we knew about him as a player — a really athletic outfielder that had recently converted and we thought there was still some potential for him to grow and develop on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.
“To Oscar’s credit, he’s taken ownership of his own development from the day he got here and has continued to make progress really each day that he’s been here and he’s always seeking to learn, always seeking to get better. And that mindset’s a really good ingredient to setting a platform to being a really effective major league player.”
Outfielder Jordan Luplow entered Sunday batting .319 with seven doubles, eight of his nine homers and 16 RBIs against left-handed pitching. His eight homers were tied with Boston’s J.D. Martinez for the most in the American League against lefties — two behind major league-leader Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers.
His .750 slugging percentage and 1.160 OPS against lefties through Saturday ranked second to Martinez.
“Jordan’s been a force for us in the middle of the lineup, especially against lefties,” Antonetti said. “Hopefully he can continue to build on the momentum he’s established and as he’s getting those opportunities now against some righties, continue to put up productive at-bats. We’ve been really encouraged by the progress he’s made and the impact he’s had on our team.”
Major League Baseball has done away with the waiver-wire trading period, going with one deadline on the traditional July 31 date.
“In terms of any sort of larger trades involving prominent players, I’m not sure it will have much of an impact because it was really difficult to trade those guys in August,” Antonetti said. “The only players that got traded in August were either guys that filled a depth need or players on big contracts that teams let pass on waivers. I don’t think it will have too much of an impact on those big deals, but I do think it will force teams to assess their depth and make even a lot of smaller trades early to be able to make sure that if anything happens in August or September they’re well prepared for it. I would expect the overall volume of trades will increase prior to July 31, even if they may not be the headline-grabbing ones.”
The Indians wrap up the homestand with a three-game series against Kansas City that begins tonight at 7:10.
Adam Plutko (3-1, 4.55 ERA) opens the set, opposing right-hander Brad Keller (3-9, 4.45), while Shane Bieber (6-3, 3.86) starts for Cleveland on Tuesday (7:10 p.m.) against righty Glenn Sparkman (2-3, 3.62).
Bauer (5-6, 3.69) goes for the Indians in the series finale Wednesday (1:10 p.m.), while the Royals counter with Jakob Junis (4-6, 5.18), another right-hander.
The Indians entered Sunday leading the American League with a .501 slugging percentage and an .823 OPS in June, while ranking fourth with 37 homers and a .262 batting average. Through Saturday, Cleveland ranked second in the majors with a .516 slugging percentage and .847 OPS since June 4.
** Zach Plesac has picked off three baserunners in six starts.