On Tuesday the club designated fifth starter Jason Johnson, with plans to replace him in the rotation with Triple-A prospect Jeremy Sowers. The club also sent right-hander Jeremy Guthrie down to Buffalo to get stretched out as a starter again, called up right-handed reliever Ed Mujica -- who began the year at Double-A Akron -- and purchased the contract of Joe Inglett, who could figure in as the club's utilityman of the future.
The moves, Shapiro stressed, are not signals of a club giving up on the 2006 season and focusing on 2007.
"This signals us trying to get better right now," he said.
The Tribe came into Tuesday seven games under .500, in fourth place in the American League Central and 15 games behind the Tigers in the standings.
With the season in jeopardy, the rumblings of a potential fire sale have begun. Veteran players unsigned beyond '06 -- such as Bob Wickman, Ronnie Belliard and Eduardo Perez -- could become the subjects of trade talks.
Shapiro acknowledged that there are several players he would consider moving before the July 31 trading deadline, but that he's not looking to move anybody except Johnson right now.
So, no, the Indians are not pulling the proverbial plug on the '06 season yet.
"How realistic [the Indians' chance of getting] back in the race doesn't matter," Shapiro said. "Our goal is to get better, not to trade players. 'Pulling the plug' is not in our vocabulary."
No runs allowed:
When Mujica packed his bags and made the drive from Buffalo to Cleveland on Tuesday, he didn't have to bring an ERA with him.
You see, if Mujica had an ERA, it would be listed right about here. But he doesn't. In 38 2/3 innings over 24 appearances between Akron and Buffalo this season, he hasn't given up a single earned run.
"I can't remember ever seeing a guy with a 0.00 ERA on June 20," Shapiro said.
Mujica said that he doesn't let the stat get in his head when he's on the mound.
"I've tried to work hard to make that ERA," Mujica said. "I've done very well down there."
The 22-year-old, a native of Venezuela who was signed by the club as a non-drafted free agent in 2001, has had a couple of close calls, but has only surrendered one unearned run. The key to his success this season has been the addition of a split-finger fastball to his repertoire.
"I throw it when I get ahead," he said. "I just learned it this year from [bullpen coach] Luis Isaac [during Spring Training]. It's worked pretty good for me."
When the Indians told Inglett last season that his big-league future, if it existed at all, would most likely come as a utility player instead of an everyday player, he didn't treat it like a slap in the face.
He looked at it as an opportunity.
"It's nice to have a role," Inglett said.
That will be his role with the Indians. He was groomed for the role earlier this year by spending three and a half weeks at Akron in April and May, playing shortstop every day to sharpen his skills at the position. He's strongest at second base and can also play the outfield.
The 27-year-old, an eighth-round pick in the 2000 draft, has long been productive at the plate. He's a career .311 hitter in the Minors, including a .362 average between Akron and Buffalo this year.
"He's a very versatile ballplayer," manager Eric Wedge said. "He brings energy, he comes hungry. We'll work to fit him in as we see fit."
What about Guthrie?
Guthrie's second stint with the Indians was short-lived. He made one appearance since being called up on June 13, giving up four runs on six hits in two innings of relief in Monday night's 12-8 loss to the Cubs.
For the year, he's made seven relief appearances with the Indians, compiling a 6.59 ERA.
The Indians believe that his future is in a rotation, and he'll take over the role of sixth starter from this point. He was sent back to Buffalo to get back on a starter's schedule.
At Buffalo this year, Guthrie has gone 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA in eight starts.
Here's the question:
With his start against the Indians on Tuesday, Greg Maddux became the second member of the 300-win club to pitch at Jacobs Field. Can you name the first?
Left fielder Jason Michaels remains day to day with a sprained right ankle. Results of an MRI performed on Monday didn't show anything more significant than that, according to Lonnie Soloff, the team's head athletic trainer.
Michaels has been undergoing aquatic therapy for the injury, which was sustained last Thursday when he crashed into the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium in pursuit of a Bernie Williams home run.
The Indians have not ruled out placing Michaels on the 15-day disabled list this weekend to make room on the active roster for Sowers.
Meanwhile, right fielder Casey Blake, who's been on the DL since Friday with a strained left oblique muscle, was given a cortisone injection on Monday night to treat inflammation in the area.
Infielder Adam Davis, the Indians' third-round pick out of Florida, was signed by the club on Tuesday. He is the fifth pick from the first 10 rounds to be signed by the team. He was a member of the 2005 USA Baseball National Team. ... The Indians' game against the Reds on Saturday will now start at 1:25 p.m. ET, as it will be televised as part of the "FOX National Game of the Week" coverage. ... The Indians haven't won a series-opening game since May 19, against the Pirates. ... The Tribe is 4-12 since June 2, 3-11 since June 4 and 2-9 since June 8.
And the answer is:
The first was Roger Clemens, who took the mound against the Tribe on July 10, 2003.
The Indians wrap up their three-game set with the Cubs on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander C.C. Sabathia (5-3, 3.08 ERA) will make the start opposite right-hander Carlos Zambrano (5-3, 2.82).