CLEVELAND -- The prognosis was for Rafael Betancourt to miss four to six weeks of action with a back strain. Now it appears he'll be back within three and a half weeks of the injury he suffered on the mound in Baltimore on April 20. Betancourt will make a one-inning rehab appearance at Double-A Akron on Sunday and is expected to be activated off the 15-day DL on Tuesday.
"That's pretty good," he said. "I've been working out like I never did before. I'm very happy with the way I feel." Betancourt was feeling especially good after throwing a 40-pitch simulated session indoors Friday at Jacobs Field. The session had to be moved inside because of heavy rain. The right-handed Betancourt didn't mind working indoors. He was just happy to be working. "The hardest thing for me is to watch the games on TV," he said. It's been especially hard for Betancourt because of the struggles his fellow relievers have endured in his absence. When Betancourt, who compiled a 6.43 ERA in eight appearances before going on the DL, returns, he'll likely be a sight for sore eyes. While he got off to a rough start this season, he has a penchant for throwing strikes, as evidenced by the 3.85 strikeout to walk ratio he took into '06. That's a quality the Tribe's bullpen could sorely use. Betancourt, though, downplayed the significance of his return. "All the guys in there are good," he said. "I know the guys in there can do the job. I'll just be one more guy in there." Initially, the Indians will use Betancourt in middle relief, though he'll eventually be moved toward the back end, manager Eric Wedge said.
Role reversal: Wedge said he'll continue to use Guillermo Mota in middle relief, in order to get the veteran right-hander more consistent use, despite his struggles Wednesday in Kansas City. Just hours after Wedge had told reporters he'd use Mota, previously the club's setup man, more in the sixth and seventh innings, Mota gave up the two solo home runs that decided that day's loss to the Royals. "We want to try to use him more frequently to get him a better feel," Wedge said of Mota, who has gone 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in 13 appearances. "Usually, the eighth-inning guy is used more than anybody, but that hasn't been the case." Young right-handers Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera will be used more in the eighth inning. Betancourt, upon his return, will initially pitch in the middle before moving toward the back. "We feel strong about the young arms in our bullpen," Wedge said. "We really feel they're going to get it." Special guest: Perez was standing by the locker in the Indians clubhouse with the name Perez on it, which is nothing out of the ordinary. Except this was Tony Perez, not Eduardo, standing there Friday. The Hall of Fame first baseman, one of the central figures of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine years in the 1970s, is in town to visit Eduardo with his wife, Pituka, to celebrate Mother's Day and his birthday Sunday. "It'll be a special day," Tony said. The elder Perez, a special assistant with the Florida Marlins, said he hasn't been to Jacobs Field since 1997, when the Marlins and Indians met in the World Series. Here's the question: The two Perezes have combined for 453 career home runs. That's the fourth-most among father-son combinations in Major League history. Can you name the three father-son combos who rank ahead of Eduardo and Tony? Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo has added veteran left-hander Vic Darensbourg to its roster, replacing Felix Heredia, who was released by the Indians on Friday. Darensbourg, 35, was in the Tigers organization last year. He was sensational at Triple-A Toledo, where he went 2-0 with a 0.29 ERA and seven saves in 44 games. In 22 games with the Tigers, he was 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA. Darensbourg was in spring camp with the Orioles before being released April 7 and picked up by the Tribe. Heredia posted a 6.75 ERA in eight appearances at Buffalo. ... Left-hander Jason Stanford (1-3, 3.82 ERA) gave up two runs on five hits over six innings to get his first win of the year in Buffalo's 7-3 win over Rochester on Thursday. ... Akron, Class A Kinston and Class A Lake County were all rained out Thursday. Tribe tidbits: The Indians are averaging 6.3 runs per game. After 35 games last year, the Tribe was averaging just 3.9 runs per game. ... In-park voting for the 2006 All-Star Game began at Jacobs Field on Friday. Fans can also vote up to 25 times online at Indians.com. ... Davis, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Michaels and Kelly Shoppach are scheduled to visit two local schools Monday and Tuesday as part of Major League Lunch week. Davis and Guthrie will visit St. Mary's in Berea on Monday, while Michaels and Shoppach will be at Denison School on Cleveland's west side Tuesday. The players will eat lunch with the student body and discuss the benefits of healthy eating habits. And the answer is: Entering the '06 season, Bobby and Barry Bonds ranked first with 1,040 homers between them; Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. ranked second with 688 and Felipe and Moises Alou came in third with 503. On deck: Left-hander C.C. Sabathia (2-0, 2.35 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season Saturday, as the Indians continue their three-game set with the Tigers at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Jeremy Bonderman (3-2, 4.40 ERA) will get the start for Detroit. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Len Barker's perfect game, all fans will receive a figurine that depicts Barker and Rick Manning, who caught the final out of that game on May 15, 1981.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.