CLEVELAND -- The Indians headed into this season with increased confidence in the organization's depth. In an 8-6 win in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of Chicago on Monday, Cleveland showed precisely why it feels it is in a much better position in that regard.
The Tribe promoted right-hander Zach McAllister to make a spot start and the prospect gave the ballclub six solid innings en route to his first Major League win before being optioned back to Triple-A Columbus. In the ninth inning, lefty Nick Hagadone halted a White Sox rally to earn his first career save.
It was an example of how gaining more big league experience can help a young player.
"It's a process for every single one of these guys," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Last season, the 24-year-old McAllister made four starts for Cleveland, going 0-1 with a 6.11 ERA. When he took the mound against the White Sox on Monday afternoon, the right-hander did not have to battle the same kind of jitters he ran into a year ago.
"There's more confidence in me," McAllister said on Monday. "I think last year was a big learning experience for me and it definitely helped me out for this start."
Hagadone, 26, posted a 4.09 ERA in a nine-game stint with Cleveland last season and has now fashioned a 1.08 ERA in seven appearances for the Indians this year. In the ninth inning in Game 1 on Monday, Acta turned to Hagadone with no outs, a runner on second base and two runs already across the plate for the White Sox in the frame.
Hagadone walked one batter, but got the three outs needed to seal the win.
"Last year, we probably couldn't trust him in that situation," Acta said. "Now, we feel like he can come in and throw strikes. It takes time."
And it takes confidence.
"Being able to get the experience," Hagadone said, "and other innings in other situations building up to it definitely helps."
Sizemore looking forward to June return
CLEVELAND -- Grady Sizemore has spent more days in the training room than on a ballfield over the course of the past four years. The Indians center fielder has undergone six different surgeries in that time period, but he has never lost his desire to complete his long and arduous comeback.
Sizemore is currently recovering from a procedure on his lower back.
"I still feel like I'm pretty young," Sizemore said on Tuesday. "I love this game and I don't see myself calling it quits anytime soon."
Sizemore has done most of his training of late away from the public eye, but the sidelined center fielder held court with reporters at his locker prior to Tuesday's game against the White Sox. In the early afternoon hours, Sizemore went through some running and agility drills in left field at Progressive Field after throwing in a long-toss session.
Due to being on the 60-day disabled list, the 29-year-old Sizemore is not eligible to be activated until June 3 at the earliest. If he can continue to make steady progress, Sizemore said he plans on doing everything in his power to be ready to officially rejoin the Indians at some point in early or mid-June.
"We're still shooting probably for some time in June," Sizemore said. "We'll go from there. I don't know if anything is set in stone yet. It all depends on just how the body responds and where I'm at with each progression."
Sizemore said he has started to hit baseballs off a tee and he should gain clearance to begin hitting in soft-toss sessions and then batting practice during the team's next homestand, which begins on May 16. That will be a big step for Sizemore, who underwent a microdiscectomy operation to repair a herniated disk on March 1.
The center fielder indicated that his back feels fine, noting that it was the feeling in his left leg that was most affected. While working his way back from that surgery, Sizemore is also rehabbing the right knee that he injured last season. He does not want to return to the Tribe until he is as close to 100 percent as possible.
"I still have a long ways to go," Sizemore said. "I have a lot of work to do, but I feel like I'm at the tail end of this rehab."
Indians manager Manny Acta said it is a good feeling to know that Sizemore could be rejoining a team that is battling for the American League Central title.
"It's encouraging that we're playing good baseball right now," Acta said. "It gives a guy an opportunity to just rehab and then for him to come back into a good stuation, instead of us not playing well and having to just be hoping that the guy is ready as quick as possible to maybe come in and be the savior.
"That's not the case right now. Guys are playing well, so, hopefully, we'll continue to play well and, when Grady comes in, we're in a good spot. If he can give us a lift like he's capable of, that's good. That's a plus."
Hafner takes a seat after productive day
CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner had a busy day on Monday. In a doubleheader sweep over the White Sox, the Indians' veteran designated hitter launched a home run, equaled the franchise's career hit-by-pitch record and legged out his first triple in five years.
On Tuesday, manager Manny Acta told Hafner to take a seat.
"He needs a day off," Acta said prior to Tuesday's game against Chicago. "He's a little sore from all the activity yesterday. Going through the 21 games in 20 days, we're going to have to rest guys here and there."
Acta then smirked.
"The triple might've taken a toll on him," he added.
In the sixth inning of Cleveland's 8-6 win in Game 1 of the twin bill, Hafner sent a pitch from White Sox lefty Jose Quintana off the wall in left-center field. The ball rolled back into the outfield, creating enough opportunity for the 34-year-old DH to collect the 11th triple of his career.
Hafner's teammates loved it.
"You should've seen it from my perspective in the dugout," Shelley Duncan said with a grin. "He looked like a linebacker."
It marked Hafner's first three-base hit since May 29, 2007, against Boston, ending a streak of 1,711 at-bats without a triple for the slugger known as "Pronk." Asked if he remembered that particular triple, Hafner cracked a smile.
"There's been so many triples," he quipped. "It's hard to keep track of them all."
Hafner's second-inning home run in Game 1 moved him into a tie with Al Rosen for eighth on the Indians' all-time list with 192. When Hafner was hit by a pitch from lefty Eric Stults in the second inning of Game 2, the designated hitter matched Nap Lajoie's club record (79) for being hit by the pitch.
Quote to note
"I've done it, but I'm definitely not used to it. I'm used to the seventh, eighth, close games. But that ninth? Closing games out, definitely with a one-run lead, that's a different animal. I've got a newfound respect for those guys."
-- Indians lefty Tony Sipp, who earned a save in Monday night's 3-2 win over the White Sox
Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left lat muscle, began a long-toss throwing program this week. Righty Carlos Carrasco (on the 60-day DL while coming back from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow) has initiated the early stages of mound throwing progression.
Right-handers Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin each registered a quality start (at least six innings pitched with no more than three earned runs allowed) for the Indians in Monday's doubleheader against the White Sox. Cleveland entered Tuesday with 17 quality starts this season, trailing only the Angels (22), White Sox (19) and Rangers (19) in the American League.
Entering Tuesday, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was hitting .408 (29-for-71) over his past 18 games. He had hit safely in seven consecutive games and in 16 of his past 18 contests. Cabrera's .356 average ranked fifth in the American League behind Derek Jeter (.397), David Ortiz (.380), Josh Hamilton (.376) and Ryan Sweeney (.368).