KANSAS CITY -- Someone had to be the odd man out. Unfortunately for Travis Buck, the return of center fielder Grady Sizemore left little room on the Indians' bench for another outfielder.
On Tuesday morning, Cleveland optioned Buck to Triple-A Columbus in order to officially recall right-hander Jeanmar Gomez from the same Minor League affiliate. Buck's departure, however, was set in motion on Sunday, when Sizemore was activated from the 15-day disabled list.
"Unfortunately, it's a numbers game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We can only keep 25 guys. In my five years managing, this was probably the hardest guy for me to send down. To me, he's a legit Major League player. We really liked him out of Spring Training and we really liked him up here.
"I think he has a chance to be a very good player. This just shows that we have some depth here. Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, we can have a guy like him at Triple-A playing for us."
Buck, 27, made the Tribe's Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder, along with Shelley Duncan. Both players have options, but the Indians like Duncan in his current role as a right-handed option off the bench. Due to Sizemore's return, Austin Kearns has also assumed a backup outfielder role.
Both Buck and Kearns can man all three outfield spots, but Cleveland inked the latter to a one-year, $1.3 million deal over the winter to serve as the primary fourth outfielder. Buck, who signed with the Tribe on a Minor League contract, also struggled out of the gates offensively.
After hitting .393 over 20 games in Spring Training to easily win a spot on the roster, the left-handed-hitting Buck opened the year with a .136 average through his first seven games. Buck switched to a different bat type and went 4-for-7 in his past two starts for the Indians.
"He swung the bat well that last homestand," Acta said. "It was just a matter of time. It's tough when you're so young and you're up here and you're not playing on an everyday basis. It takes those guys, even experienced guys, to adjust to that type of routine and situation."
Acta added that Buck will play the outfield and some first base while with Columbus. The manager also noted that the Indians' outfield alignment of Michael Brantley in left, Sizemore in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right consists of three left-handed-hitting players. That also played in a role in Buck's demotion.
Gomez, 23, replaces injured right-hander Mitch Talbot in the Tribe's rolling rotation. Talbot was placed on the 15-day DL on Sunday with a right elbow strain and is expected to miss at least a month. That gives Gomez a chance to stick on the starting staff for a while.
With Triple-A Columbus this season, Gomez went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. The righty went 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 11 outings for Cleveland a year ago. The Indians are hoping he can keep the recent success of the pitching staff going. Over the past 14 games, the Tribe's arms have combined to go 12-2 with a 1.96 ERA.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.