KANSAS CITY -- The Indians took a gamble when they traded for veteran pitcher Derek Lowe over the offseason. The risk paid off for two months, but Cleveland might not be able to roll the dice any longer.
On Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, Lowe labored through another outing, extending his prolonged slump for one more forgettable evening. It was as swift as it was ugly, and the pitcher's troubles on the mound sent the Indians spiraling to an 8-3 loss to the Royals.
Lowe's spot on the club could be in jeopardy.
"I'm not going to be making a knee-jerk reaction right now, right after the game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "But we're going to have to sit back and analyze things, because it's been rough for a while. We're going to sit down and look at what the options are right now."
Acta did note that starter Josh Tomlin, who has gone 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA in his last eight outings, is now in the bullpen. Right-hander Corey Kluber will be promoted from Triple-A Columbus to take Tomlin's spot in the rotation, beginning with a start against the Royals on Thursday.
Tomlin entered in relief of Lowe in the third inning on Tuesday.
The return of Cleveland sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez is also on the horizon, though he is not eligible to be activated until Aug. 11. Hernandez is serving a three-week suspension for using a false identity (Fausto Carmona) and is working through a rehab stint in the Minor Leagues.
As for Lowe, the Indians could pass him through waivers and, once he clears, try to find a team to pair with for a trade. Releasing the veteran is also an option, though Cleveland has not indicated as of yet that it is planning on taking that route.
The only other alternative would be to continue to gamble that Lowe will turn things around in time to avoid damaging the Indians' chances of contending.
Lowe said he is trying not to think about the possible consequences of his struggles.
"Those are definitely things that you can't worry about," Lowe said. "You have to be more competitive, there's no doubt about that. There have really been a lot of seven- or eight-run games. [Five] of them, I believe. I don't sit here and worry about [losing my spot]. You just go out and try to figure it out."
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Indians, who fell three games under the .500 mark for the first time since being 1-4 on April 11. Lowe fell to 8-10 on the season, making his 6-1 start to the year a long and distant memory. Dating back to May 20, Lowe has gone 2-9 with an 8.28 ERA in 13 starts for the Tribe.
Last season, Lowe went 0-5 with an 8.75 ERA in September en route to a 17-loss season, contributing to Atlanta's collapse from postseason contention. Over the offseason, the Braves agreed to trade Lowe to Cleveland in exchange for Minor League reliever Chris Jones, and Atlanta chipped in $10 million of the starter's $15 million salary.
The Royals torched Lowe for seven runs on eight hits in his 2 1/3 innings, upping his ERA to 15.88 over his past three appearances. The 39-year-old right-hander has surrendered 20 runs on 23 hits over 11 1/3 innings in that most recent stretch.
"If you want to talk about a tale of two months," Lowe said. "From the first two to where we are right now, it couldn't be any further. It's frustrating. You have a standard of what I've pitched like and this, this is not what you're used to doing. But, it's reality.
"You can't sugarcoat it, and you can't sit here and say you've been pitching good and got a few bad breaks, because that'd just be a lie. That's where we are."
Kansas City struck for one run in the first inning on an RBI single from Lorenzo Cain and then added two in the second on a single from Alcides Escobar. Lowe's unraveling came in the third inning, when the Royals loaded the bases with one out against the veteran sinkerballer.
Lowe balked, forcing home a run, before giving up a two-run double to Chris Getz, helping Kansas City to a 6-3 advantage. At that point, Acta handed the ball to Tomlin, who is trying to find his way out of his own slump. Tomlin gave up a double to Alex Gordon and a triple to Escobar to put the Tribe behind, 8-3.
"Derek just didn't have very good stuff," Acta said. "It just put us in a big hole right away."
It was more than sufficient for supporting Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, who allowed three runs in six innings. Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman each delivered a run-scoring single in the second and Asdrubal Cabrera scored from third base on a wild pitch in the third, but that was the extent of the Tribe's scoring against Hochevar.
Over the past four games, Cleveland has been outscored, 36-9.
"At this point," Acta said, "we need a well-pitched ballgame out there to help us win."
Lowe has struggled to provide that for the Indians since May.
Asked what he could do to fix the problem, Lowe was at a loss.
"That's a good question," he said. "As you can tell, I'm not answering it right now."