Notes: Marte to come off bench for now

Notes: Marte will come off bench

CLEVELAND -- Baseball protocol says a player shouldn't lose his job because of an injury.

But for the Indians to follow the protocol to the letter, they would have had to ignore what has been a pretty productive infield setup.

So when Andy Marte was activated from the 15-day disabled list and brought back to the big-league club before Saturday's game against the Reds, he reclaimed his roster spot but not his job.

Marte, who had been out with a hamstring strain, is no longer the Indians' everyday third baseman. That job falls more into the hands of Casey Blake, who performed admirably in Marte's absence.

Marte, meanwhile, will see most of his playing time against left-handed pitching.

"What can I say?" Marte said. "I'm going to do what they want me to do. I'm happy to be back here, and I'll do whatever I can to help the team win."

To make room for Marte on the active roster, the Indians optioned outfielder Franklin Gutierrez back to Triple-A Buffalo.

On the days Marte starts, Blake will likely spell Trot Nixon in right field. The hot-hitting Ryan Garko appears to be unaffected by Marte's return, as he will remain the everyday first baseman.

The Indians wrestled with whether to bring Marte back or keep him in Buffalo, where he made 10 rehab appearances and could play on an everyday basis.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Marte will find himself in Buffalo before all is said and done. If Garko and Blake continue to play well and Marte is spending a lot of time on the pine, the Indians might decide he's better off getting the starts for the Bisons.

"We need to give it a little time to play out," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll see how much he indeed does play and how that works out in the short term."

Wedge insisted Marte, who was batting just .179 (7-for-39) and had made a team-high four errors at the time of his injury on April 22, is not losing playing time because of anything he did.

"It's more about the guys who are here and have been doing a good job for us," Wedge said.

The Indians went 17-7 in Marte's absence, with Blake playing solid defense at third base while batting .301 with eight doubles, two homers and 15 RBIs in those 24 games.

Garko, meanwhile, has hit .342 with four homers and 11 RBIs in that same span and shown improvement in his footwork at first.

Wedge said he believes the Indians can benefit from having Marte available off the bench.

"If Andy plays the way he's capable of," Wedge said, "it makes us a better team against left-handers."

Miller's minor mishap: The thought of top pitching prospect Adam Miller missing time with an injury might put knots in the stomach of the Indians' front-office members, but it appears they can breathe easy.

Though the right-handed Miller was scratched from his scheduled start for Buffalo on Thursday with a mild flexor strain in the middle finger on his throwing hand, the injury does not appear to be serious. Miller has been playing catch the past two days and is scheduled to return to the Bisons' rotation Tuesday.

"He didn't throw for three days," head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said. "We're not concerned, but we're being as cautious as possible, because of what he means to the organization, both in the short- and long-term."

Miller is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 39 strikeouts in seven starts this season.

The tooth hurts: The hamstring stopped bothering Marte last Sunday. And then another problem sprouted.

"My tooth started hurting," he said. "I couldn't sleep at night."

Turns out, it was a pesky wisdom tooth in the right side of Marte's mouth. He had to have it yanked earlier this week and missed three games, as a result.

In all, Marte hit .242 (8-for-33) with two homers, three RBIs and committed one error in 10 games with Buffalo.

Here's the question... Grady Sizemore has stolen 15 bases in 15 attempts this season. Can you name the last Indians player to steal 14 or more bases without being caught?

Halfway there: The Indians mentioned a three-to-five-week timetable with regard to pitcher Jake Westbrook's return from a left abdominal strain, and it appears he'll fall more toward the five-week end of the spectrum.

Westbrook has been playing catch during the homestand, the right-hander threw from 105 feet Saturday. He will throw from 120 feet on Monday. If all goes well, Westbrook will throw his first bullpen session Wednesday.

"He's asymptomatic," Soloff said of Westbrook, who suffered the injury 2 1/2 weeks ago, "so we're encouraged."

It never ends: The Tribe's batting practice was cut about 30 minutes short Saturday because of rain.

"Shocker," Wedge said when he saw the rain come down.

Yep, what else is new? The weather has been, for the most part, lousy whenever the Indians are at home.

"Sweet state," Texas native Kelly Shoppach mocked as he came off the field.

As Wedge pointed out, the weather in the middle of next week, when the Indians are in Kansas City, is expected to be sunny and in the 70s and 80s.

Tribe tidbits: Sizemore is the first Indians player since at least 1957 to start a season with 15 stolen bases in as many attempts, according to Elias Sports Bureau. ... Blake has taken over the No. 2 spot in the Tribe's lineup, and Wedge would like to keep it that way. "I'm very happy and very comfortable with what Casey has done in the two-hole," Wedge said. "We're going to leave that as it is right now." ... The Indians' .833 home winning percentage (15-3) entering Saturday was the best in baseball.

Down on the farm: Ben Francisco went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a stolen base in Buffalo's 7-5 loss to Ottawa on Friday. ... Double-A Akron left-hander Chuck Lofgren has been one of the organization's best pitchers in '07, but he was roughed up for six runs, five earned, on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 7-1 loss to Erie. ... Max Ramirez, Wes Hodges, Mike Butia and Stephen Head all homered in Class A Kinston's 11-8 win over Potomac. ... Third baseman Jared Goedert hit his Minor League-leading 15th homer in Class A Lake County's 15-5 loss to Hagerstown.

And the answer is... Roberto Alomar swiped 27 straight bases from April 20-Aug. 4, 2000.

On deck: The season's first installment of the "Showdown of Ohio" wraps up with Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET game at Jacobs Field. Right-hander Paul Byrd (3-1, 3.49 ERA) will go up against right-hander Aaron Harang (5-1, 4.42).

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