CLEVELAND -- He's seen games snowed out, home games moved to a neutral site, players injured and a game protested. But what general manager Mark Shapiro hasn't seen in the first month of the 2007 season is excuses. And when he looks at a club that fought through all that adversity to kick-start the year with a 15-8 record and sole possession of first place in the competitive AL Central, that lack of excuses is what satisfies Shapiro most.
"I'm pleased with the outcomes," he said. "But even more than that, just our players' approach and their refusal to accept any of the challenges we've faced as an excuse. They've had plenty of opportunities to make excuses for why we shouldn't have won, and they've had injury challenges as well." The injury bug bit the Indians early in Spring Training with the loss of Cliff Lee and late with the loss of Matt Miller. It struck during the month of April when Victor Martinez missed six games with a strained quadriceps, Andy Marte landed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and David Dellucci missed a week with an injured calf. "But guys like Tom Mastny, [Kelly] Shoppach, [Shin-Soo] Choo and, first and foremost, Fausto Carmona have stepped right up and contributed," Shapiro said. "Depth, except in the middle infield, was an area we felt was a competitive advantage. That's been tested very quickly." Just hours after Shapiro uttered those words, Jake Westbrook left his start against the Blue Jays with an injury, putting that depth to the test once again. Injuries aside, the Indians have been dealt enough odd challenges this season to make their impressive start seem unlikely. "But they haven't given into it," Shapiro said. "That's what I'm most proud of. That's the greatest reflection of what we have here, is the group of guys we have on the field and their character and their toughness." Getting closer? The Indians have spoken their peace, as have the Mariners. Now, it appears, the rescheduling of the two clubs' snowed-out, four-game series is in the hands of the league. The Indians, Mariners, MLB and the players' union had what is considered to be their final conference call on the matter Wednesday. "There's been no possibility that hasn't been discussed," Shapiro said. "All scenarios have been presented by each team." Mutual off-dates will have to be used, though both teams would like to avoid playing a doubleheader. Casey Blake, the Tribe's players' union representative, said Tuesday that at least one of the four games will have to be played in Seattle during the last week of the regular season. "We've tried to find the best possible results," Shapiro said. "They all result in some hardship for all involved." Shapiro knows the loss of off-days to make up the games will come back to bite his team. "This is going to create, at some point, a competitive challenge for us," he said. "We don't have a lot of flexibility." He'll be back: Though he was struggling at the plate and in the field before suffering a hamstring strain April 22 in Tampa Bay, Andy Marte will be returning to the Indians whenever he's ready to be activated off the 15-day disabled list. Manager Eric Wedge said he's not reading too much into Marte's slow start, which saw him hit .179 (7-for-39) with four errors in the field. After all, the Indians' schedule was fluky and the weather wasn't exactly cooperative. "When he got hurt, it was two weeks into the season," Wedge said. "And our two weeks weren't like everyone else's two weeks." Marte, on rehab with Triple-A Buffalo, was held out of action Wednesday because of soreness in his hamstring. The Indians hope he'll be ready to play for the Bisons on Thursday. Here's the question ... Who is the Indians' all-time team leader in games played? Peralta improves: His season totals still leave quite a bit to be desired, but Jhonny Peralta has turned it up a notch at the plate recently. Peralta has hit in eight of the last nine games, batting .278 (10-for-36) with two doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs along the way. In the field, the shortstop has also shown better range and quickness, Wedge said. "He's shown consistency in his entire game," Wedge said. "Physically, fundamentally and mentally -- it takes all three to give yourself a chance to succeed." Tribe tidbits: A scoring change was made from Tuesday's game. Josh Barfield was credited with a seventh-inning single on a play that was originally ruled an error on Blue Jays shortstop Royce Clayton. That extends Barfield's hitting streak to five games. The play did not affect any runs. ... The Indians and The Plain Dealer held their annual "Tribe Reporter for a Day" program at Jacobs Field on Wednesday. A group of 15 young, aspiring sportswriters from area high schools and middle schools took part, sitting in on the media's pregame session with Wedge. The youngsters also had a discussion on the journalism industry with Plain Dealer sports columnist Bud Shaw, and they interviewed Jason Michaels, Kelly Shoppach and Fernando Cabrera. Voting for the 2007 All-Star Game is under way at The Jake. Fans can vote on their favorite players until June 18. Down on the farm: Buffalo put together a six-run rally in the eighth inning to beat Syracuse, 11-5, on Tuesday. Third baseman Keith Ginter homered twice, giving him four homers in three days. First baseman Ryan Mulhern also went deep with a three-run shot. ... Double-A Akron was rained out against Harrisburg. Rodney Choy Foo ranks fifth in the Eastern League in average with a .350 mark. ... Class A Kinston starting right-hander Kevin Dixon and relievers Christopher Niesel and Randy Newsom held Lynchburg to four hits in a 5-1 victory. Dixon allowed just one run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings. ... Class A Lake County right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander Matt Meyer combined on a one-hit shutout, and the Captains put together a 12-run fifth inning in a 16-0 dismantling of Hickory. And the answer is ... Terry Turner played 1,619 games for the Tribe between 1904-18. On deck: The Indians and Blue Jays wrap up their three-game series with Thursday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at Jacobs Field. Left-hander Cliff Lee and Toronto right-hander Dustin McGowan will both be making their 2007 debut.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.