|Waiting on reinforcement, Indians host Mariners|
CLEVELAND -- With a new outfielder potentially on the way, the Cleveland Indians will host the Seattle Mariners on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series.
The potential roster addition is Melky Cabrera, whose signing to a minor league contract with the Indians became official on Wednesday. In a combined 620 at-bats for the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals last year, the 33-year-old switch-hitter hit .285 with 17 home runs and 85 RBIs.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Cabrera will report to the team's spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., for seven to 10 days of work before getting into some game action with one of Cleveland's minor league teams.
"Rather than rush, we want to do it right and give him a chance to get in really good playing shape," Francona said. "I think he understands that, and then we'll see where it goes from there."
If all goes as planned, Cabrera will join the Indians in the near future and will be used as a corner outfielder.
"He's amazingly consistent," Francona said. "Sometimes you see him in April and he kind of has some Aprils like some guys can, and then you look up and he's got 85, 90 RBIs."
The Indians' outfield, like the rest of the team, has struggled offensively in the early part of the season. Even with the return of left fielder Michael Brantley, who's hitting .320, the overall production in the outfield has not been good. Cleveland outfielders have combined to hit .251 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.
Thursday's pitching matchup will be Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-0, 1.75 ERA) vs. Mariners lefty James Paxton (1-1, 5.61 ERA).
Clevinger has pitched well in the early going, tossing his first career complete game in his last start, a two-hit shutout over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. In that 4-0 Cleveland win, Clevinger threw 107 pitches, allowing two hits, with three strikeouts and two walks. Thursday's start will be Clevinger's first career appearance against Seattle.
That Paxton is a lefty could be an advantage against Cleveland's predominate left-handed lineup. On most days, the Indians only have two right-handed hitters in their lineup: designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and the catcher, either Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez.
Cleveland's outfield of Brantley, Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin, as well as second baseman Jason Kipnis, are all left-handed hitters. Shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez are both switch-hitters.
The Indians do have two right-handed hitting outfielders on its bench in Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer, and one of those two will likely start in right field in place of Naquin against Paxton.
Cleveland will likely be without reliever Andrew Miller on Thursday. He left Wednesday's game with a tight hamstring.
Paxton last faced the Indians on March 31 and was the losing pitcher in a 6-5 Indians victory. Paxton pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits, with four strikeouts and four walks. In three career starts vs. Cleveland, Paxton is 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA.
Paxton's last start came on Saturday, when he got a no-decision in a 9-7 Mariners win over Texas. Paxton pitched four innings, allowing five runs on six hits, with six strikeouts and three walks.
Paxton's short stint vs. the Rangers has been a common theme of late for Seattle starting pitchers not named Felix Hernandez.
"We need to get more innings out of our starting pitching," manager Scott Servais told mlb.com. "Ultimately, to put (winning) streaks together, you have to have consistent starting pitching that can keep you in the game."