CLEVELAND -- When Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman lined a pitch into right-center field in the seventh inning on Friday night, Tribe fans might have let out a sigh of relief. As for Kotchman, he insists that the fact that he finally ended a brutal slump never crossed his mind.
"I really wasn't thinking about it," Kotchman said.
Kotchman's seventh-inning single helped ignite a rally that helped send Cleveland to a 3-2 victory over the Angels. It also snapped the first baseman out of an 0-for-24 funk that covered eight games.
Heading into Saturday, Kotchman was hitting .148 through 15 games. The first baseman said that his personal struggles were easier to handle right now, given that Cleveland sat atop the American League Central standings.
Kotchman -- a .306 hitter last season for Tampa Bay -- hit .200 on the Tribe's recent nine-game road trip, during which the team posted a 7-2 record. That showing as a club helped Kotchman look beyond his early-season issues at the plate.
"It's a long season," Kotchman said. "Winning has made it a lot easier. It would've been awful if were not winning games in the last week. That really softens the blow. We had that great road trip. It's like, who cares if I'm getting three hits a game if we went 1-8 on the trip? It's kind of irrelevant. You're happy and everyone else isn't. I'd rather have it where you're winning."
Masterson moving toward better command
CLEVELAND -- Justin Masterson wishes the cure to his command issues was as simple as sliding to the other side of the pitching rubber. Unfortunately, the Indians sinkerballer is working through a slightly more complicated process.
"It makes sense to me," Masterson said on Saturday morning. "But it'd be tough to explain even to other people in baseball."
On Friday night against the Angels, Masterson logged 8 1/3 innings in a more efficient showing than he had turned in for the Tribe in a handful of starts. Following the game, Indians manager Manny Acta noted that Masterson had slid more to the third-base side of the pitching rubber at the start of his delivery. While true, the pitcher said there is more to it than that.
Masterson noted that the primary area of focus for him involves his arm slot and follow-through.
"More or less, it's arm slot," Masterson explained. "It's kind of getting through the ball and not getting underneath it. That's pretty much what happened. Now, the movement on the rubber, in essence, is where we had been before. I kind of creeped over a little bit, so we scooted back over. In a sense, that would give you more room for error.
"Part of it is, even if you're on the first-base side, you should still be able to throw strikes. So, yeah, it might give you more room for error. Righties may see the ball a little bit better, but maybe you'll get some more ground balls. For me, the biggest part was getting down through the ball. That was the bigger adjustment for me."
In his start against Los Angeles, Masterson allowed two runs on four hits, but still issued an uncharacteristically high five walks in the outing. The right-hander has 15 walks compared to eight strikeouts in 17 innings of work across his past three starts. That, after he struck out 12 and walked only two in 13 innings between his first two starts this season.
Masterson is working toward finding a solution.
"There are just some minor things," said the pitcher.
Indians remain cautious with injured Choo
CLEVELAND -- The Indians continue to take a cautious approach with right fielder Shin-Soo Choo in his recovery from a mild left hamstring strain.
On Saturday morning, Cleveland manager Manny Acta indicated that Choo would test his ailing leg with some running drills on Sunday. If the outfielder comes away without any lingering issues, he could return to the lineup by Tuesday.
"He's still feeling something there," Acta said. "That's the report we've gotten from the training staff. We wouldn't be holding anybody back here."
Choo, who has hit .237 with five doubles and nine RBIs through 15 games, left Tuesday's game in the eighth inning due to soreness in his left hamstring. He has been absent from the Tribe's starting lineup in the four days since suffering the injury. Acta noted that the rainy conditions on Saturday were not ideal for having Choo test out his legs with running.
The Indians have an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series against the White Sox in Chicago on Tuesday.
In the sixth inning of Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Royals, Indians center fielder Michael Brantley led off with a successful drag bunt single. Manager Manny Acta said Brantley is capable of mixing a bunt hit every now and then as part of his game.
"It's part of the game that has gone away a little bit. It's that simple," Acta said. "You just don't see it that often. Guys don't do it as much as they used to do it, but it's part of his game. He's good at it."
Entering Saturday, outfielder Aaron Cunningham has hit .357 (5-for-14) in his past four games while filling in for outfielders Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo. Prior to that stretch, Cunningham hit .176 (3-for-17) in his first 12 games of the season.
"It's opportunity," Acta said. "He's getting more at-bats now due to Choo's injury and some lefties. It helps. It helps everybody to see more pitches."
The Indians entered Saturday without a home run over their past nine games. That marks the longest power outage for Cleveland since a nine-game homerless stretch in 1991. Cleveland's current drought covers nine games, 84 innings and 303 at-bats.