CLEVELAND -- David Dellucci is on the disabled list. So, too, is the man who would have been in line to get the call up from Triple-A Buffalo to replace him. So the Indians had to improvise Wednesday afternoon, placing Dellucci on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring and promoting Ben Francisco from Buffalo as their new fifth outfielder. Had the left-handed-hitting Shin-Soo Choo not been on the Buffalo DL with left elbow inflammation, he would have been the obvious choice to replace the left-handed Dellucci on the active roster. But Choo is expected to be out until mid-August, at the earliest, with his injury.
That's a bummer for an Indians team that could use Choo's left-handed bat and the opportunity to evaluate his progression as a left fielder. "It's unfortunate," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "This would have been a great opportunity for Choo and a very natural recall for us." The Indians were not yet sure how long to expect Dellucci to be out of action, but his injury did not look pretty. He suffered the strain while beating out a throw to first in the fourth inning of Tuesday's loss to the Phillies. Dellucci underwent an MRI exam Wednesday, and the Indians were still waiting for the results. "We don't know a great deal yet," manager Eric Wedge said. "We know it's fairly serious. It's just a matter of what degree." The Indians' primary left fielder against right-handed pitching, Dellucci was struggling this season, batting .234 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 54 games. With Dellucci out of the picture, Jason Michaels, who was the Indians' everyday left fielder last season, got the start in left against right-hander Jon Lieber on Wednesday. Wedge wasn't quite sure how much playing time he would dole out to his other reserve outfielders -- Francisco, who was batting .329 with six homers and 34 RBIs for the Bisons, and Franklin Gutierrez -- or how much he'd start right fielder Trot Nixon against lefties. "We'll look to put our best lineup out there," Wedge said. "We're not going to put a specific plan in place, other than that we're going to use all those guys." Looking for relief: While it's too early to get an accurate gauge on what the summer trade market will have available, it's not too early to determine what the Indians' primary area of focus in that market will be. Joe Borowski and Rafael Betancourt have been the only consistently reliable options for Wedge in the late innings, so it's safe to assume the Indians will explore every avenue available to shore up the back end of their bullpen. But those avenues might be limited. "There's a lot of competition for very few options out there," Shapiro said. "So it may be that we improve the club somewhere else and maybe all the improvement has to come internally. Right now, it's too early to answer that question. It's very early on in that process." As far as internal options are concerned, Shapiro threw out a few speculative names. "I do feel we've got internal alternatives -- a lot of them in middle relief," he said. "Some of them could contribute late in the game. That will be something we continue to examine, as we conduct trade conversations. Who knows? Maybe Raffy Perez goes back there. Maybe we give Adam Miller a look there. Maybe Tom Mastny gets back in sync, and he becomes that guy."
Here's the question... What pitcher holds the Indians' record for most games finished in a single season? Miller watch: That Shapiro tossed Miller's name into the potential bullpen mix was intriguing, given that he's the organization's top starting prospect at Buffalo. Miller, who was 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven starts for the Bisons, has been out of action since May 12 with a strain in the middle finger on his right throwing hand, but he's begun his road to recovery. On Tuesday, Miller threw a 25-pitch simulated session in Buffalo. He was expected to throw another sim game this weekend. Shoulder trouble: Right-handed reliever Cliff Politte, working his way back after surgery last August to repair a torn rotator cuff, has had a slight medical setback. Politte had shoulder fatigue after his last outing at Double-A Akron on June 15 and has been shut down from throwing for a period of seven to 10 days, Shapiro said. Despite the setback, Shapiro still views Politte as a potential source of bullpen help down the line. "If everything progresses, [Politte could help] sometime after the All-Star break or into August," Shapiro said. Tribe tidbits: Josh Barfield was bumped back down to the No. 9 spot of the order Wednesday after spending two days at No. 2. He is batting .328 with eight RBIs in 18 games this month. ... Nixon's average has shot down from .272 at the beginning of the month to the .236 mark he took into Wednesday. He was in a 1-for-27 funk at the plate. ... This is Francisco's second call up to the big-league club this season. His first saw him get into one game but he had yet to record a big-league at-bat. Down on the farm: Third baseman Andy Marte has hit .302 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .604 slugging percentage in the month of June at Buffalo, which was rained out Tuesday. ... First baseman Michael Aubrey had three hits, and right fielder Brian Barton reached base in all five plate appearances, as Akron beat Trenton, 4-3. ... Class A Kinston catcher Max Ramirez, catcher Chris Gimenez and right-hander Jim Deters and Frank Herrmann represented the Carolina League in the High A All-Star Game. Left-hander David Huff was also selected but was unable to participate because of injury. And the answer is... Mike Jackson set the club mark by finishing 65 games in 1999. On deck: The Indians will have Thursday off before opening a three-game weekend set in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Right-hander Fausto Carmona (8-2, 3.12 ERA) will oppose left-hander Micah Bowie (4-2, 3.78) in the opener
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.