|Indians' injured outfield allows Cabrera to play vs. Astros|
CLEVELAND -- With four outfielders currently on the disabled list, the Cleveland Indians were in need of some outfield reinforcements.
Veteran Melky Cabrera was signed to a minor league contract on April 25, but when Cleveland started losing outfielders to injuries, Cabrera was fast-tracked to Cleveland, where he'll be in the lineup Saturday night for the third game of a four-game series between the Indians and Houston Astros.
The 33-year-old Cabrera's contract was purchased from Triple-A Columbus on May 20. A switch-hitter, Cabrera brings some needed balance to a Cleveland lineup that was lefty heavy. Cabrera also brings a proven track record for production.
Last year, in a combined 620 at-bats for the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox, Cabrera hit .285 with 17 home runs and 85 RBIs. Since joining the Indians, Cabrera has started four games in right field and one at designated hitter. He is hitting .222 (4-for-18), with two doubles, one RBI, one walk and three strikeouts.
"His batting average doesn't reflect it, but he's actually had good at-bats for us," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He doesn't have a ton to show for it, but he's had some good at-bats, and he's thrown out two guys from the outfield."
Two-thirds of Cleveland's starting outfield is on the DL: center fielder Bradley Zimmer (rib contusion), and Tyler Naquin (hamstring). Also on the DL are outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall (calf) and Brandon Guyer (neck).
The healthy outfielders are Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis, Greg Allen and Cabrera.
Houston has won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 19-4. Saturday night's pitching matchup will be a reprise of the pitching matchup on May 20 in Houston: Astros right-hander Lance McCullers (6-2, 3.20 ERA) vs. Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (5-3, 3.65).
On May 20 in Houston, McCullers and the Astros beat Carrasco and the Indians 3-1. McCullers was outstanding, pitching seven scoreless innings on one hit, with eight strikeouts and two walks. Carrasco pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs and eight hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
In two career starts against Cleveland, McCullers is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA. Carrasco has made seven career appearances against Houston and is 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA.
Like Cleveland, the Astros also have been struck by injuries to outfielders. Starters Josh Reddick (leg infection) and Derek Fisher (intestinal discomfort) are on the disabled list.
Those injuries have opened the door for others. One who has taken advantage of the opportunity for some playing time is Tony Kemp, who on May 16 was recalled from Triple-A Fresno, where he was hitting .335.
In seven games since his recall, Kemp is hitting .400 (8-20), with six RBIs, three walks and two stolen bases.
"From an at-bat quality standpoint, he's been very good at staying in the strike zone," Astros manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com. "He's been very good at staying in the strike zone. ... He's drawing a few walks, and that success has built some confidence. He knows he can contribute every day."