BOSTON -- Dan Wheeler received handshakes and well wishes as he headed for the exit to the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park on Sunday. The veteran reliever had just pitched his way off the Indians' roster and into an uncertain future.
In the aftermath of an ugly 12-1 rout at the hands of the Red Sox, the Indians designated Wheeler for assignment. Before he left the ballclub, Wheeler was asked if he was given a reason for the team's decision to part ways with him.
"Did I really need to hear one?" Wheeler said.
Wheeler allowed six runs on five hits in a forgettable seventh inning, which broke the game wide open for Boston. The Red Sox collected four extra-bases hits, including a two-run home run by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in the right-hander's lone inning of work.
"He's not making pitches," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You need to make pitches."
During the one-inning disaster against the Red Sox, Wheeler's season ERA rose to 8.76 from 4.76 for his 12 relief appearances. Since posting a 3.68 ERA in eight April outings, the 34-year-old Wheeler posted a 16.20 ERA in four appearances in May. On the year, Wheeler had seven walks compared to only two strikeouts.
The Indians now have 10 days to either trade or release Wheeler. If he clears waivers, the club could also re-assign him to a Minor League affiliate. Cleveland has not yet announced which pitcher will be promoted to assume Wheeler's spot in the bullpen. Four candidates at Triple-A Columbus include right-handers Jeremy Accardo, Hector Ambriz, Frank Herrmann and Chris Ray.
Accardo has a 2.26 ERA with 16 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 1/3 innings, Ambriz has posted a 3.26 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 1/3 innings, Herrmann has a 4.11 ERA with 17 strikeouts and four walks in 15 1/3 innings and Ray has a 2.20 ERA with 13 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 1/3 innings.
Indians help honor moms by wearing pink
BOSTON -- When he exited the field at Fenway Park on Sunday, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis scanned the stands, searching for a few moms to honor on this Mother's Day. Kipnis wanted to give away some of the pink items he wore throughout the game against the Red Sox.
Kipnis was taking part in Major League Baseball's annual Mother's Day effort to raise awareness for breast cancer. Other items -- such as the pink bats used by a handful of players -- will be auctioned off to help raise money to assist Komen for the Cure.
"I actually made a point to throw all mine into the stands to moms," Kipnis said of the pink arm and wrist bands he sported in the Tribe's 12-1 loss. "I tried to find moms with Tribe gear on. If they had kids with them, I flipped them the arm bands and other stuff, too. That's what I tried to do.
"I like the fact that they're trying to find some way to turn it into a positive and raise awareness, and make some money for charity."
Continuing a tradition that began in 2006, MLB celebrated Mother's Day at all home ballparks on Sunday as a platform to raise awareness of breast cancer in the interest of prevention, treatment and a cure. Around the league, hundreds of MLB players were slated to use pink Louisville Sluggers, stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo.
To further demonstrate their support for the fight against breast cancer, players and on-field personnel also had a pink ribbon on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Commemorative dugout lineup cards were also pink.
Beyond the MLB.com auction of game-used and autographed items for charity, the 2012 pink bats are also available from the MLB.com Shop and help in the fight against breast cancer in the process. They are going for $69.99, and $10 of each sale goes to Komen for the Cure. The bats are the same model many players used Sunday.
"I think it's a good cause," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I'm glad that everybody is behind it."
Choo finding more comfort at the plate
BOSTON -- Shin-Soo Choo is the first to admit that he has been a bit jumpy with inside pitches from left-handers this season, but the right fielder feels he is making progress and is beginning to find a better comfort zone in the batter's box.
"I'm getting better," Choo said. "Early in the season, I had a lot of hit by pitches and then I was a little bit afraid of inside pitches. Now, after talking to the hitting coach and talking to players, I think I was more scared for my body. I was scared on inside pitches and I'd turn too quick.
"Now, I'm hitting hard fly balls, hard ground balls against left-handed pitchers. I think it's getting better."
Choo had his left thumb fractured by an inside fastball from lefty Jonathan Sanchez last season during a game against the Giants, forcing the right fielder to miss roughly six weeks. So far this season, the lefty-hitting Choo has been hit by four pitches and he has seen a high volume of inside fastballs.
In his first 17 games of the season, Choo hit just .209 (14-for-67) and was hit by three pitches. Indians hitting coach Bruce Fields said one issue was that Choo was turning toward inside pitches while bailing out, putting the right fielder in a vulnerable position. Choo has been working on some adjustments and was hitting .281 in his past 10 games, entering Sunday.
"Early in the year, he gets nailed a couple of times," Fields said. "That's going to kind of add fuel to the fire when you're going through something like that. In talking to him about the tentativeness he was feeling, we went through the process. He wasn't taking pitches properly. He was opening up.
"When you're taking pitches and you're opening up, it's dangerous. That kind of played into it a little bit."
Choo firmly believes he has taken the steps to start correcting the problem.
"I think I'm getting better," said Choo, who was hitting .232 through 27 games for Cleveland. "I'm not getting hits, but I feel much more comfortable in the batter's box now. "
Lowe moved by Red Sox's gesture with ring
BOSTON -- Derek Lowe is a talker. The veteran Indians pitcher has a loose way about him and is constantly in a joking mood with reporters and teammates inside the Cleveland clubhouse.
On Saturday, when Lowe stepped outside the locker room at Fenway Park, the pitcher was rendered uncharacteristically speechless.
The Red Sox presented Lowe with a new 2004 World Series ring prior to Saturday's game in Boston, replacing the one that was stolen in a home robbery earlier this year. Lowe, who won all three clinching games for the Red Sox during that historic postseason run, was blown away by the gesture from his former organization.
"I didn't know what to say," Lowe said on Sunday morning. "That's one of the classiest things I've ever seen."
Lowe received a phone call in the clubhouse on Saturday, requesting that he step outside for a minute. When he walked into the ballpark's concourse, Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino were all waiting for him. Lowe appreciated that all three walked over to deliver the replacement ring.
"By no means did they have to do it," said Lowe, who spent parts of eight seasons with Boston from 1997-2004. "I knew there was probably an opportunity for me to buy another one. To have all three of them there, too, it really meant a lot. To have them go out of their way, to show their appreciation, it was something you'll never forget.
"It almost means more this time, because it's something that was a selfless act on their part."
Fenway full of memories for Tribe's McAllister
BOSTON -- Cleveland starter Zach McAllister smiles at the thought of the photograph snapped of him at Fenway Park when he was a kid. He put his head through a cut-out of a mock Indians player while attending the 1999 All-Star Game with his dad.
Thirteen years later, McAllister is an Indians player.
"It's kind of funny that now I'm with them," McAllister said.
On Saturday night, McAllister was on the mound at Fenway Park for the first time and he gave the Tribe seven solid innings after assuming the rotation spot vacated by Josh Tomlin. Prior to his outing, McAllister was promoted from Triple-A Columbus and Tomlin was placed on the disabled list with a right wrist injury.
It marked McAllister's first trip to Fenway Park since that visit in 1999, when his dad, Steve McAllister, was a scout for the Red Sox. Zach, who was 11 years old at the time, was allowed to go into the home clubhouse and he sat behind home plate for the ballgame. Needless to say, finally pitching in Boston was a thrill for the right-hander.
"It was exciting," said McAllister, whose dad is a scouting supervisor for the D-backs now. "I was able to come here as a young kid and kind of see everything and take it all in. But it's definitely way more exciting pitching and being a part of all that."
McAllister was a Cubs fan growing up in Chillicothe, Ill., but one of his favorite ballplayers was former Indians slugger Jim Thome, who hails from nearby Peoria, Ill. That might explain why McAllister chose to pose as an Indians player so many years ago.
"I was always a big Jim Thome fan," said the pitcher.
Quote to note
"He's a big strong kid. He's one of those kids I could see being durable -- a 115-120 pitch-type of guy. He can handle that. He works extremely hard and he doesn't lose any stamina as the game goes on. I've seen that in him."
--Indians manager Manny Acta, on starter Zach McAllister
The Indians entered Sunday with a Major League-high 456 at-bats against left-handed pitching. Cleveland's .217 average against southpaws ranked 13th in the American League and 27th overall in baseball. With seven pure lefties and two switch-hitters, the Indians knew facing left-handers would be a challenge this year.
"That's the chance we're taking," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We knew it coming in and we have repeated ourselves over and over and over, that there are more right-handed starters than left-handed starters, especially in our division. So we have to take our chances."
Veteran outfielder Johnny Damon entered Sunday hitting .171 (7-for-41) through his first 10 games as the Indians' leadoff man. Damon remained in the lineup's top slot for Sunday's game against the Red Sox. Indians manager Manny Acta believes the outfielder simply needs more chances to find his groove at the plate.
"He need to get some more at-bats," Acta said. "That's what it is. We'll get him more at-bats and see where he's at."
Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano entered Sunday riding a streak of 18 appearances that have included at least one strikeout. That run, which dates back to last season, is the second-longest strikeout streak by a Tribe reliever since 1918. The longest belongs to Paul Shuey, who had a 21-game strikeout streak from Aug. 20, 1999-April 10, 2000.