SEATTLE -- Indians manager Terry Francona is doing everything he can to get Nick Swisher going again in the batter's box. He has used Swisher as a designated hitter lately and gave the first baseman a couple days off from starting in Arizona earlier this week.
For Friday's game against the Mariners, Francona put the switch-hitting Swisher back in the starting lineup, but dropped him to the eighth spot for the first time this season. The 33-year-old veteran had not started a game in the eighth hole of a lineup since May 28, 2011, with the Yankees.
"You're always trying to think about your team and the players," Francona said. "I think what you try to do, ultimately, is put your team in the best position to succeed and make sure the players understand and know that you have their interest [in mind], but the team has to always come first."
Entering Friday's game, Swisher was hitting .196 with five home runs, 14 doubles, 25 RBIs and a .610 OPS through 60 games this season for the Indians. Since returning from the 15-day disabled list on June 12, following a bout with a left knee injury, Swisher was batting just .128 (5-for-39) and 19 strikeouts against zero walks, heading into Friday's action.
Francona said one encouraging aspect of Swisher's recent slump is the fact that all five of his hits have been for extra bases. Within that showing, Swisher has also launched a pair of game-deciding home runs. He belted a go-ahead shot in the 11th inning on June 15 in Boston to help the Tribe to a win. Then, on June 19, Swisher came through with a walk-off blast in the 10th inning against the Angels.
"The good part is the hits he's gotten have been huge," Francona said. "It's not like he's throwing a single in here or there. He's got a couple home runs. That's fortunate. I still kind of hang my hat on Swish has found a way always to [rebound]. He's done this before. Maybe not quite to this length, but I just think that the trend will reverse and it'll go the other way."
House to start Sunday as Masterson rests knee
SEATTLE -- The Indians will give ailing starter Justin Masterson a few extra days to test the right knee that has bothered him since early this season. In the meantime, Cleveland plans on promoting left-hander T.J. House from Triple-A Columbus to start against the Mariners on Sunday.
Prior to Friday's game in Seattle, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway noted that Masterson is scheduled to throw off a mound on Saturday. Manager Terry Francona said the plan is to have the sinkerballer start against the Dodgers on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
"He feels pretty good," Francona said of Masterson. "I think the couple days will do him a lot of good."
On Tuesday in Arizona, Masterson labored through 91 pitches against the D-backs, allowing five runs on seven hits with four walks in four innings. Cleveland revealed Wednesday that the right-hander has been fighting through the knee issue for most of the season.
Masterson, who has a 6.34 ERA and an .852 opponents' OPS over his past nine outings, said the injury has bothered him since his second start of the season. Francona and Masterson each said it was not an issue during Spring Training, and the pitcher was not willing to cite the injury as the reason behind his diminished production and pitch velocity.
"I don't know. I can't say, 'Yes,' and I can't say, 'No,'" said Masterson, who is 4-5 with a 5.03 ERA in 17 starts this year.. "I'm just trying to figure some stuff out. It's been there. We all have nagging injuries. There's always something that's getting you. It's been nothing too extreme, but there's been some inconsistencies."
According to Francona, Masterson's injury may have bothered the pitcher more than the team realized.
"I think when it gets to a point where it's affecting your pitching," Francona said, "it's hard to put a number or a date on it, but I think sometimes you kind of step in, grab a guy and go, 'Hey, come on. Tell us more.'"
Injury scare didn't slow Brantley's All-Star bid
SEATTLE -- It looked as if Michael Brantley's bid for his first All-Star Game was in jeopardy when the Indians left fielder suffered a mild concussion earlier this month. Not only did Brantley avoid a trip to the disabled list, he continued his torrid month after returning to the lineup.
Entering Friday, Brantley was hitting .350 (7-for-20) in the five games since coming back from the minor injury scare. Dating back to June 3, when Brantley's season average dipped to .301, all the left fielder has done is post a .403 (27-for-67) average with nine extra-base hits, 10 RBIs, 15 runs scored and nine multi-hit games in a 17-game span.
"It's nice, because his presence alone helps," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But, the fact that he swings the bat [is even better]. And some of it is his mechanics are so simplified that he probably has a better chance than most to not skip a beat."
In the most recent balloting results for the American League All-Star team, Brantley ranked sixth among his peers in the outfield. Cleveland has not had a player voted into the starting lineup since 2001, when Juan Gonzalez earned the honor for the Tribe.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on July 15 on FOX.
Quote to note
"We've had to play through some ups and downs. We haven't been as good defensively as I think we'd like to be. But, because we keep playing, there's been some games where we've actually hung on and won. Games that look maybe a little bit improbable. I guess I figure, if we do that, if we're as good as we think we are, we'll end up where we're supposed to be."
-- Francona, on the Tribe's season to date
• Indians catcher Yan Gomes threw out another would-be basestealer in Thursday's win over Arizona. Entering Friday, Gomes had cut down steal attempts at a rate of 33.3 percent (17-of-51), which ranked fourth in the American League and fifth in the Majors.
"He's been tremendous," Francona said of Gomes, who struggled defensively in the season's first few weeks. "He has not only reeled it in, he's been a force back there. That's part of how we thought we could be good. Having him back like that is realy helpful."
• It should not be too long before Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall finds his name on the AL batting leaderboard. In order to qualify for the batting race, a player must average 3.1 plate appearances per team game. Chisenhall, whose .352 average would lead the league, headed into Friday's game averaging 3.04 plate appearances in Cleveland's 79 games.
• McAllister, who could be an option to start for the Indians on Tuesday in the event that Masterson (right knee) needs more recovery time, had a strong outing at Triple-A on Thursday. Over 7 1/3 shutout innings, the righty scattered three hits, walked two and struck out six.