Notes: Tribe focusing on fundamentals

Notes: Tribe focusing on fundamentals

CLEVELAND -- Looking for reasons as to why the Indians are a handful of games under .500 in late May? Well, look no farther than the lost art of the bunt.

The team's inability to execute what used to be a simple technique has hurt, and the weakness at bunting the ball was glaringly apparent in a couple of the games the Tribe played against the Twins earlier in the week.

It was a weakness, however, the Indians organization is mindful of.

"I think in today's game, there's not the same emphasis on fundamentals," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Kids haven't played as many games; Minor League players haven't played as many games when they get to the big leagues.

"The reason for that might be simple: economics," Shapiro said.

It dictates that players get rushed through the system a lot faster, and they don't have the time to work on some of the fundamental skills.

"I would say, in addition, that the nature of the arbitration process and the modern financial system of the game, they don't necessarily get rewarded for those things," he said. "They get rewarded for putting up other statistics.

"So you've got a couple of factors that make it difficult to get players to work on it and to refine that art."

But one number that also brings rewards is wins, and the Indians can use plenty of wins as the club tries to work itself back toward .500. A little bit of small ball might help in that regard. It surely wouldn't hurt to master the bunt, particularly with a team that's struggling to get hits and runs.

"I think we're committed to doing it in the Minor League level," he said. "Obviously, we need to work on it at the Major League level, too."

Update on Wickman: Closer Bob Wickman's back has improved, and pitching coach Carl Willis said the veteran right-hander should be available Sunday.

"Wicky says he's much improved," Willis said. "So we'll be able to use him. It'll depend on the situation."

Wickman hurt his back Friday night in the Tribe's 4-1 win over the A's, as he planted his foot during warmup tosses. He has been listed as day to day.

Here's the question: Who was the last team to sweep four games at Jacobs Field? (See answer below.)

Quotable: "Nowadays, they have more trouble packing hair dryers than baseball equipment." -- Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller on young players

Did you know: The Indians have not won four straight games since Aug. 9-14 last season.

This and that: Third baseman Aaron Boone is hitting .063 against left-handed pitching. Boone is in an 0-for-10 slump. ... On Saturday, all four Minor League affiliates recorded victories as the Indians' farm system continues to own the best combined Minor League record at 112-80 (.583). ... Class A Kinston and Triple-A Buffalo lead their respective divisions. Double-A Akron is second in the Eastern League, and Class A Lake County is third in its division of the South Atlantic League. ... The Indians hit a milestone Saturday night in their 12-year history at Jacobs Field. With their 6-3 win over the A's, the Indians picked up their 500th regular-season win. Overall, the Tribe has a cumulative record at The Jake of 500-373 (.573). ... In its last 10 games, the Tribe is hitting .283 (109-for-385) with 51 runs scored. The team's offense now ranks 12th in the American League with a .245 batting average, 13th in the league in runs scored (190), 11th in on-base percentage (.310) and ninth in slugging percentage (.398). In 2004, the club was fifth in all of Major League Baseball with 858 runs.

Tribe tidbits: Indians fans can buy tickets for home games at The Jake through the Internet at, at the Jacobs Field box office, at the seven Cleveland Indians Team Shops in Northeast Ohio and through the phone center (1-866-48-TRIBE). ... The 33,646 fans at the game Saturday night was the largest for the Tribe since Opening Day. ... The Indians are 5-2-1 in their last eight series. ... After beating Barry Zito on Friday, the Indians are now 4-8 against left-handed starters. The Tribe is 19-17 against right-handed starters.

On this date: In 2002, 39-year-old Chuck Finley had pitched a masterful game against the Tigers. He gave up two runs on six hits, but the veteran left-hander's good work didn't produce a win. The Tribe lost at The Jake, 2-0.

And here's the answer: In August 2002, Zito, Mark Mulder & Co. came into The Jake and beat the Tribe four games in a row. By the way, the Yankees were the last team to beat the Tribe four games in a row on the road. They did it in 2003.

On deck: Left-hander C.C. Sabathia will start the opener Tuesday night at 8:10 p.m. ET in Minneapolis against the Twins. Sabathia will face right-hander Carlos Silva.

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.