Acta confident Indians can stay in race
Manny Acta watched the Cleveland Indians fade from contention in the AL Central race following the All-Star break a year ago.
The Indians' manager is confident that won't happen again this season.
The second-place Indians are 44-41 and trail Chicago by three games in the division. They begin the second half Friday in Toronto.
A year ago Cleveland was 47-42 and also in second place, a half-game back. The Indians regained the top spot briefly, but went 33-40 after the break and finished 15 games behind the Detroit Tigers with an 80-82 record.
Acta and his players are expecting better results this time around, thanks to a team that's more talented and healthy than last season's club.
''It's the same guys with experience,'' Acta said Thursday before the team held a workout at Progressive Field. ''The experience will only help them. It's a better club. We're healthy right now and we're ready to go.''
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, Cleveland's most consistent offensive player in the first half, thinks the Indians learned some valuable lessons last season.
''This is a more consistent team from top to bottom,'' he said. ''Guys got experience last year. They know what happened. These guys are looking to make that push.''
Kipnis leads the Indians in RBIs (49) and stolen bases (20) and is tied with All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for the team lead in home runs (11).
The Indians, who open the second half with a seven-game trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay, lead third-place Detroit by a half-game. The White Sox have won 11 of 15 while the Tigers took a five-game winning streak into the break.
''Chicago and Detroit are playing good baseball,'' Kipnis said. ''They're winning a lot of games. We have to stay afloat with them and hang in there while they make their runs and hopefully we'll be in a position to make our run.''
Acquiring a hitter - preferably one who bats right-handed and plays the outfield - or a starting pitcher would definitely help the playoff push. General manager Chris Antonetti pulled off a major deal at last season's deadline when he acquired right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez from Colorado for Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, the top two pitching prospects in Cleveland's organization.
The Indians have been outscored 414-385 in 85 games. Cleveland's 4.50 ERA is 13th in the AL.
''We want to be more consistent with our hitting and I want our pitching to improve,'' Acta said. ''You can't sit here and say being next to last in pitching is going to get it done.''
Kipnis, Cabrera and outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley have carried the team offensively. A strong second half is needed from catcher Carlos Santana, who is hitting .221. An upgrade in left field, where most of the playing time has gone to Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan, is one of the prime targets in trade talks.
A right-handed bat is at the top of Antonetti's list when it comes to acquiring offensive help. The Indians are 9-16 against left-handed starters and 35-25 versus right-handers.
Jimenez and Justin Masterson are the top two starters. Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin have been inconsistent while rookie Zach McAllister is the fifth starter for now. All-Star closer Chris Perez is third in the AL with 24 saves. He blew a save on opening day before converting 24 consecutive opportunities. That streak ended in the final game before the break Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Cabrera and Perez were the only players excused from Thursday's workout since they participated in the All-Star festivities.