Notes: Nixon's impact felt off the field

Notes: Nixon's impact felt off the field

CLEVELAND -- Some might wonder how Trot Nixon seemingly takes on the public role of team leader, what with being the honcho behind the pie-in-the-face routine and recently calling a players-only meeting.

He has, after all, just a few months' service with the Tribe and has not performed up to expectations on the field, hitting .243 with just three homers and 30 RBIs.

Well, stop wondering. Nixon's impact on the Indians has far transcended his numbers this season.

The 33-year-old right fielder was brought in from Boston -- where his hustle and grit earned him the affectionate moniker "Dirt Dog" -- to bring, if nothing else, experience and leadership to a youthful Tribe club.

And he's done just that.

"Trot's done a great job of leading," manager Eric Wedge said. "His presence and his personality [are] felt by this ballclub daily."

Said third baseman Casey Blake: "He commands respect. He's been there, and he knows what winning baseball is all about. That's big for some guys in here who don't have the experience that he has."

For his part, Nixon will brush off this "leader" role. Keeping the clubhouse atmosphere light is part of his personality. And as far as being a mentor, he's only returning the favor from when he was a rookie, prying information from the club's veterans.

"There are many young ballplayers that look [to do] that," Nixon said. "And there are some that already know everything when they get to the big leagues."

The 2007 Tribe is the former, Nixon said. And, really, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Video victor: July Madness is over.

Josh Barfield emerged the victor on Wednesday in the Indians' 16-team video-game tournament. And don't think that the second baseman's prowess in Nintendo's RBI Baseball and his underdog victory over top-seeded Victor Martinez was going unnoticed.

In fact, Barfield posted the winning bracket above his locker, and he was already making predictions about the next tournament, which is already under way.

"When I win [the next] tournament," Barfield said, pointing to his winning bracket, "you'll see another one on top of it."

Fultz keeping on: Nearly a month after Aaron Fultz went on the disabled list as a "precaution," a return to the big leagues appears to be in sight for the Tribe's situational lefty.

After throwing a pain-free bullpen session on Wednesday, Fultz will throw to a few hitters before Friday's game. If all goes to plan, he will then head out on a rehab assignment.

Wedge did not know where that will be, though he said that Fultz will have to make at least two rehab outings before rejoining the Tribe.

Here's the question ...: Before this week, the last time the Indians split back-to-back 1-0 games was in 1942. The Tribe's last two contests also marked the first time since 1975, when the Angels and Rangers did so, that a pair of American League opponents traded consecutive 1-0 games. But can you remember the last time the Indians played two straight 1-0 games of any type?

Homer happy: Every Indians run this week has come via the home run.

Yes, it's only been three runs for the Tribe's struggling bats, but in a small way it exemplifies an Indians offense that has at times seemingly relied on the long ball.

Wedge, for his part, sees little cause for concern. Though the Tribe's 120 homers rank second in the league, he points to the Indians' 529 runs, the fourth-most in baseball.

"I'm not sure if it's good or bad," he said. "You score runs, you score runs. ... Whether it be because you're getting three or four hits in an inning or hitting one home run after a walk or two, I'm not sure if there's going to be any trends with that over time."

Tribe tidbits: Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, in town for a MasterCard promotion, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday. ... On Wednesday night, Franklin Gutierrez became the first player in Indians history to hit a homer in two 1-0 victories in the same year. He also provided the game's sole offense in C.C. Sabathia's shutout against Kansas City on June 5. Not since 2001, when Bret Boone (two) and Gary Sheffield (three) did so, has a big leaguer hit at least two homers in 1-0 games in the same year. ... After nailing two more runners in Wednesday night's win, Martinez has now caught 17 of 62 runners this year. His 27.4 percentage is second only to Texas' Gerald Laird (41.4 percent) in the American League. ... Blake, as if to mock clubhouse neighbor Ryan Garko's fondness for Harry Potter, jokingly replied in this week's Sports Illustrated that he would "choke myself" if he transformed into the storybook character. "I was being stupid," Blake said with a laugh. "If I was a reader and I was really interested in books, I guarantee you I'd like it. And I've never seen the movies, but I guarantee I'd probably like them, too."

Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo starter Jeremy Sowers had a second straight encouraging outing, allowing one run on eight hits over five innings in the Bisons' 5-3 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. "I think he's starting to figure it out," Wedge said. ... Pinch-runner Trevor Crowe scored the game-winning run on a 10th-inning error and Ryan Goleski hit his seventh homer as Double-A Akron edged Harrisburg, 5-4. ... Class A Kinston's Kevin Dixon (10-3) gave up two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings and Stephen Head went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored in the Indians' 12-2 shellacking of Potomac. ... Class A Lake County's Beau Mills enjoyed another big night, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, but the Captains fell, 4-3, to Hickory.

And the answer is ... The Tribe last played consecutive 1-0 games in June 1991, losing both to Toronto.

On deck: The Tribe opens a weekend set with the Twins on Friday night at Jacobs Field. Paul Byrd (8-4, 4.43 ERA) will be opposed by Minnesota right-hander Boof Bonser (5-6, 4.53).

David Briggs is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.