TORONTO -- The Indians are optimistic that left fielder Michael Brantley will not be sidelined long with the minor back injury that forced him to leave Wednesday's win over the Blue Jays in the fifth inning.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona held Brantley out of the starting lineup for Thursday's game in Toronto, but said that decision was merely precautionary. The Indians are wrapping up a six-game stretch on artificial turf (Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre), which may have played a role in the mid-back tightness that flared for Brantley.
Francona indicated that Brantley will likely be cleared to return to the lineup against the A's on Friday in Cleveland.
"He's doing really well," Francona said prior to Thursday's game. "I just think since we're on turf, it's the last day of the trip, I'm not going to play him tonight. I think he'll be good to go tomorrow. He's going to take [batting practice]. He's already come out and thrown a little bit.
"It's just, rather than him getting up and down and getting loose and doing that, we'll give him the day and I think he'll be really ready to go. He's OK."
On the season, Brantley is hitting .279 with a team-leading seven home runs and 30 RBIs through 20 games for the Indians.
Brantley's initial replacement, left fielder Nyjer Morgan, sustained a sprained right knee in the bottom of the fifth inning on Wednesday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday. Cleveland promoted first baseman Jesus Aguilar from Triple-A Columbus to take Morgan's spot on the active roster, but Ryan Raburn got the nod in left field.
Francona said he planned on meeting with general manager Chris Antonetti in Cleveland this weekend to go over some upcoming roster decisions. Designated hitter Jason Giambi (on the 15-day disabled list with a right calf issue) will be eligible to be activated Monday. For Thursday's game, Aguilar was slotted into the lineup as the Tribe's DH.
"We've got Aguilar here. He'll DH tonight," Francona said. "And when we get back to Cleveland, Chris and I obviously talk a ton, but we'll certainly sit down and kind of see where we're at. We've got 'G' coming. There's some things. We'll make sure we're organized on how what fits and when."
Morgan placed on DL, Aguilar called up
TORONTO -- When Jesus Aguilar learned he was being promoted to the Indians, the first baseman quickly made two phone calls. First, Aguilar shared the good news with his wife. He then called his mother, Maria, in Venezuela.
"I said, 'Hey, your son is going to play in the big leagues,'" Aguilar said Thursday. "She was very excited. She was crying. It was a great moment for my family."
Prior to Thursday's game against the Blue Jays, Cleveland called up the 23-year-old Aguilar from Triple-A Columbus to take outfielder Nyjer Morgan's place on the active roster. Morgan sustained a sprained right knee Wednesday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Aguilar was in the sixth spot of the starting lineup as the Indians' designated hitter for his Major League debut Thursday. With both Morgan and left fielder Michael Brantley (back tightness) out of the mix for the finale of the three-game series, Ryan Raburn manned left field. Utility man Mike Aviles also offers depth at the position.
During Wednesday's 15-4 rout of Toronto, Brantley exited after the top of the fifth inning, but is only considered day to day with the injury. Morgan took over for Brantley in left field and slammed his knee on the turf while trying to track down a double off the bat of Toronto's Adam Lind in the bottom of the fifth.
Morgan, who had a brace on his leg and left on crutches as a precaution Wednesday night, was flown back to Cleveland, where he will undergo an MRI to further evaluate the extent of the injury. In 15 games as a reserve outfielder for Cleveland this season, Morgan has hit .341 with one home run, six RBIs and eight runs scored.
"When he went after that ball in left field," manager Terry Francona said, "you could tell he was kind of trying to maybe dive and he got caught in between, and then he kind of got in an awkward position. He said the next time he ran is when he felt like a little pop, so we got him out of the game. ... We'll get him imaged. We put him on the DL. We'll see where that takes us. When we have information, we'll certainly tell you guys."
Aguilar hit .275 with 16 home runs last season for Double-A Akron, while also setting the franchise's single-season record with 105 RBIs. Aguilar carried that success into his stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he hit .327 with 18 homers and 50 RBIs in 58 games for Caracas.
This year, Aguilar hit .298 with seven home runs, eight doubles, 18 runs and 20 walks in 37 games for Triple-A Columbus, where he also turned in a .395 on-base percentage and a .519 slugging percentage. He has hit just .182 in 13 games in May after posting a .356 average in 24 games in April.
"He got real hot in April. That happens," Francona said. "When a guy gets called to the big leagues for the first time, I don't think it matters what he hit the last week. He's going to be geared for God and pretty fired up. Hopefully he'll get a big hit or two to help us win a game."
Gomes impresses teammates with 12-pitch at-bat
TORONTO -- Yan Gomes was starting to think about taking a pitch just to end the at-bat. Instead, Cleveland's catcher continued to grind his way through a grueling ninth-inning confrontation with Blue Jays reliever Neil Wagner on Wednesday night.
Finally, with a full count and six foul balls behind him, Gomes drilled the 12th pitch from Wagner deep to right field for a three-run home run that capped off Cleveland's 15-run outpouring against Toronto. It was a prolonged plate appearance that impressed Gomes' teammates.
"Yan had one of the best at-bats I've ever seen in my life," Indians veteran outfielder David Murphy said. "He could've easily said, 'We're up by a lot here. This at-bat doesn't really matter.' But he buckled down, he fouled off a lot of tough pitches, took a lot of great swings and, obviously, got an incredible result."
Gomes smiled and shook his head when asked about the at-bat Thursday.
"It was a battle, man," Gomes said. "At one point, I was just like, 'Come on.' The game was, in a sense out of hand. I was just trying to get the at-bat done with. I think if I take that pitch, it's ball four, too. I even ended up impressing myself. I have no idea how I did that."
Dating back to 1992, which is as far back as baseball-reference.com has data for pitches per at-bat, the Indians have only had three other players launch a home run in an at-bat consisting of 12 or more pitches. Besides Gomes, Casey Blake (June 7, 2007), Carlos Baerga (Aug. 5, 1995) and Kenny Lofton (May 17, 1994) also accomplished the feat for Cleveland.
The blast by Baerga came on the 15th pitch from White Sox pitcher Atlee Hammaker. As it happens, Hammaker is Gomes' father-in-law.
"I heard about that," Gomes said with a laugh. 'I've actually got to let him know that."
Through 34 games this season, Gomes has hit .269 with six home runs, six doubles, one triple, 17 RBIs and 18 runs scored for Cleveland.
Quote to note
"He keeps grinding and he doesn't ever give up. It paid off for him. It could've been a single to right. It could've been a double, but the ball carries out and ends up making him feel good about himself, which is great."
-- Francona, on Yan Gomes' 12-pitch at-bat resulting in a home run Wednesday
• Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who entered this season with a .244 average for his career, went 5-for-6 in Wednesday's 15-4 win to raise his season average to .361 through 28 games. The third baseman has nine doubles, four RBIs and 12 runs scored, and has been earning more trust and playing time from Francona.
"He sure is. I told him that," Francona said. "Last year, we had to send him to Triple-A. This year, we're trying to figure out ways to get him in the lineup. That's because of Lonnie. That's not because of us. That's him doing what you're supposed to do. We spent a lot of time talking to Lonnie last year about things like this. ... I'm proud of him and how he's working to be a better player."
• Given that outfielders Brantley (day to day with back tightness) and Morgan (on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee sprain) are dealing with injuries, first baseman Nick Swisher let Francona know that he is willing to move to right field to help, if necessary. Swisher played right at times last year for Cleveland.
"He actually volunteered," Francona said Thursday. "I'd prefer not to. ... Swish has told me he would do it in a minute, which as a manager you really appreciate."
• Cleveland continues to look for signs of progress from third baseman Carlos Santana, who entered Thursday batting .154 through 39 games. Santana launched a two-run home run Wednesday and has hit .364 (4-for-11) with four walks in his past three games, following an eight-game stretch in which he posted a .036 (1-for-28) average.