Indians place Gonzalez on 15-day DL
Sizemore recalled from Triple-A; Wedge shuffling lineup
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Indians put right fielder Juan Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list after his troublesome right hamstring didn't improve.
"With Opening Day coming up, I don't think it's visible that he'll be able to get back in the lineup," manager Eric Wedge said. "I think the best plan of attack is to put him on the DL and give him some more time to get [the hamstring] back to 100 percent."
Putting Gonzalez on the disabled list jumbles the Indians lineup. Wedge immediately announced that Casey Blake would move from left to right field and Grady Sizemore would be recalled from Triple-A Buffalo.
Wedge wasn't sure, though, if Sizemore would start Opening Day on Monday or if the nod would go to Ryan Ludwick, who breaks Spring Training as the Tribe's fourth outfielder. The White Sox will throw Mark Buerhle in the opener, one of the top left-handers in the game.
Ludwick, who hits right-handed, seems a better match up than Sizemore, who bats left-handed. But Wedge stopped short of saying he'd platoon the two as he waits the return of Gonzalez.
Wedge said he's hopeful that Gonzalez will be back shortly. His move to the DL is retroactive to March 28, the day after he originally tweaked the hamstring.
Gonzalez's injury was the second of Spring Training. He missed a week earlier in camp when he strained his left hamstring.
But the bigger issue is one that went unanswered: whether Gonzalez can stay healthy through a long season. That had been one of Wedge's concerns from the start, and Gonzalez's hamstring problems put those concerns back on the marketplace again.
Wedge remained steadfast that Gonzalez makes the Indians a stronger team, and he didn't seem overly worried about this injury, not with an option like Sizemore at the ready. Yet Sizemore doesn't have Gonzalez's ability to generate runs.
"There's no mistaking what we're seeing with the bat," Wedge said. "I still see the bat able to play, and able to play in a big way if he can stay healthy."
In his career, Gonzalez, 35, has landed on the disabled list 11 times. With the Royals last season, he played in 33 games before heading to the DL on May 22 with a muscle strain in his back. Gonzalez ended up sitting out the rest of the season.
Wedge said Gonzalez expressed disappointment over his latest injury. The outfielder had used the offseason to work himself back into tip-top shape, and proved throughout Spring Training that his bat had no ill effects from the idle time of the past three seasons.
Since he left Cleveland in 2001, Gonzalez has played a total of 185 games.
"It's been a while since he played, and a long while since he played every day," Wedge said. "He wants to get back out there."
So does the 22-year-old Sizemore, who voiced his frustration over his return to the minor leagues after a solid spring. Sizemore batted .291 (16-for-55) with one homer and 10 RBIs in 17 games.
For now, he'll have a big league job until Wedge and the organization can figure out what banking on Gonzalez might mean. The Indians said from the outset that they needed to be able to count on Gonzalez. They're not ready to let go just yet.
"We're going to keep him down here in the warm weather, allow him to continue working and then go from there," Wedge said.
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.