Indians general manager Mark Shapiro admits he's only putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, but expects the patient to heal on his own. Shapiro said veteran outfielder Jason Michaels would be designated for assignment on Tuesday and outfielder Ben Francisco called up from Triple-A Buffalo. More moves could be made, but Shapiro still believes the answer is to get the players on the team to produce.
Shapiro remains reluctant to trade from the club's strength -- starting pitching -- to solve an offensive slump that has reached Titanic proportions.
“This one move is not going to solve our offensive woes," Shapiro told reporters in a conference call Monday. "Jason Michaels was not the cause of our problems. But we have to start to make some small moves.
“Ultmately, the answer lies within. When you have five to seven guys up and down your lineup struggling, you are not able to make one move or two moves to solve those problems."
Shapiro does think that bringing up Francisco, who was one of the club's best hitters in spring training, could help.
“We feel that Ben is an outfielder who can potentially give the club a spark and has the ability to give (manager) Eric (Wedge) a player who is not necessarily a platoon player, given his splits against left-handers and right-handers," Shapiro said. "He can keep David Dellucci strong and do the same for Franklin Gutierrez."
Dellucci in left field and Gutierrez in right have not exactly torn the cover off the ball, but they have been more productive of late than DH Travis Hafner, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and third baseman Casey Blake. First baseman Ryan Garko also was in a prolonged slump, but got a few hits in recent games and may be coming out of it.
Even catcher Victor Martinez, atop the AL in batting average, isn't producing as usual. He's still looking for his first home run of the season.
Shapiro expressed confidence in hitting coach Derek Shelton and did say that players if certain players at Triple-A Buffalo (second baseman Josh Barfield, outfielder Brad Snyder, etc.) had been hitting, they would have been candidates to get called up, too.
“Derek has been a big part of all our success," Shapiro said. "We are trying to help him make these adjustments with the players.
“The first place we look (is Buffalo) and it is a concern that the offensive problems seem to carry there. If there are players there performing, then we would turn there."
As for trades, Shapiro doesn't want to deal pitching for hitting, but says he is not adverse to trying to put together some sort of swap.
“We starting looking now," he said. "But is one trade going to make us better now? It makes no sense to make a deal unless we get three or four guys in return who can help us get turned around. If we bring in one guy, will it help if three or four in the lineup continue to struggle?
"The starting pitching has been the best in both leagues and we need to provide them with run support and work out the kinks in the bullpen. We get that done, we can still contend. It's still very early."
Shapiro doesn’t seem took interested in potential big-name free agents still unsigned such as Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Shawn Green or even former Indians fan favorite Kenny Lofton, -- though he admits their names have crossed his mind.
“In our darkest nights, we’ve thought of everything," Shapiro said, not sounding confident that older players could recapture the fountain of youth while at the same time requesting big-money contracts. "The fact remains we have to get it done with the players we have here who are not performing up to expectations.
“I don’t think this one move will turn things around. We need the players here to perform to their career standards. Not above them. But at what they have normally done.
“Our primary focus is on getting these players turned around and able to perform at the levels expected of them by us and by themselves. There are individual fundamental things we see and maybe some mental approaches that carry over from player to player.
“The big thing is we need to get back to being mentally strong, working the count, getting a good pitch to hit and when we do, take advantage of the situation and hit it.”
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is making progress from Tommy John surgery, but still too far away from being able to help the big-league team. Choo is expected to be playing on a fairly regular basis in extended spring training in a "week to 10 days," according to Shapiro. Choo could be activated for a rehab assignment at the end of May.