MINNEAPOLIS -- Batting leadoff and playing center field ... Kenny Lofton. No, this wasn't a flashback to 2002. This was the present day, the opening of the Indians' most important road trip of the season, and that top spot had a decidedly retro look. A rare day off for Grady Sizemore prompted Lofton's return to the lineup's top spot -- where he had hit for seven games in August -- and his old territory in the middle of the outfield. With the Tribe on Day 14 of 23 straight days of baseball, manager Eric Wedge wanted to give Sizemore a break.
"We're trying to give all our starters a day off in the middle of this long stretch," Wedge said. "Today was a good day for Grady. We had a day game [Sunday], a day game [Monday], a night game [Tuesday], and [Johan] Santana on the mound. It's a good day for it." Did Sizemore put up much of a fight? "I didn't leave it up for debate," Wedge said with a smile. This was only Sizemore's second time out of the starting lineup this season -- the first being on June 12 at Florida -- and his third in the last two seasons. Of course, in those previous "days off," Wedge ended up inserting Sizemore into the game as a pinch-hitter, thus prolonging the center fielder's consecutive games played streak. And the trend continued on this day, as Sizemore pinch-ran for Chris Gomez in the sixth and played the rest of the game, extending the streak to 333. It is the second-longest active streak in the Majors. Wedge does not use the streak as a factor in his use of Sizemore. "The more people ask about it, the more of a red flag it is," he said. "That's an individual thing, and this is more about our team and getting the most out of Sizemore for the rest of the season." Let it slide: Wedge doesn't want to read too much into Cliff Lee's less-than-stellar debut as a reliever. Lee worked the sixth inning of Sunday's 8-0 loss to the White Sox, giving up a run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout. He needed 24 pitches to get through the inning. Such inefficiency had plagued Lee as a starter this season, in which he went 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA in 16 starts for the Tribe before his July 27 demotion to Triple-A Buffalo, so the outing was anything but encouraging. Then again, it was the left-hander's first time working out of the 'pen since college. "We'll give him a mulligan, because it was his first time," Wedge said. "We definitely wanted him to start an inning [rather than come out with runners on] the first time. It wasn't a clean inning, but he got through it." Reinforcements arriving: The Indians will have a few new additions to the visiting clubhouse at the Metrodome on Tuesday. With Buffalo's season set to wrap up Monday and the Bisons eliminated from the postseason, the Tribe will promote "a couple" (in Wedge's words) more Triple-A players. Right-handed reliever Ed Mujica, who has had several stints with the Indians this season, and left-hander Jeremy Sowers, who was demoted from the Tribe rotation in June, are the odds-on favorites. Outfielder David Dellucci will also join the club, though he's not expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list immediately. Dellucci, working his way back from a torn hamstring suffered in June, faced live pitching at short-season Mahoning Valley on Monday. On Tuesday, he'll take part in the Tribe's pregame routine and do some running drills. "We'll assess things after that," Wedge said. "We're still not sure when we're going to activate him." Upon his official return, Dellucci would have a pinch-hit role, Wedge said. Danger zone: Wedge saw the video of the Cardinals' Juan Encarnacion getting nailed in the eye with a foul ball while standing in the on-deck circle on Friday night in St. Louis. It had him echoing the beliefs of many who watch the game regularly. While Wedge doesn't think anything can be done to remove the danger of a player being struck in the on-deck circle, he does think MLB could prevent injuries to fans sitting near the first- and third-base lines. "I'd like to see nets going down both lines," Wedge said. "Maybe not all the way up, but high enough where it takes some angle to get [the ball] over." Wedge said this as the Twins were taking batting practice. He pointed to a young boy standing in the front row of the seating section closest to first base and remarked that the child might be at risk at that very moment. "The cage catches some balls, but not always," Wedge said. "If you hit it at the right angle and he gets hit, he's done." Tribe tidbits: The Indians, trying to preserve a 5 1/2-game lead in the AL Central standings, will play 17 of their final 26 games on the road, including this 10-game trip. "This is a long road trip, we're playing some good teams in some tough places to play," Wedge said. "It's a great challenge for us." ... Double-A catcher David Wallace, who had filled in for bullpen catcher Dan Williams when Williams was nursing a bum back, has rejoined the Tribe for the stretch run. "I must catch one heck of a bullpen," Wallace said with a big smile. ... Buffalo's manager Torey Lovullo will also join the Tribe on Tuesday. Down on the farm: Jeff Harris gave up a pair of runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings in Buffalo's 3-0 loss to Rochester on Sunday. ... Double-A Akron will face Erie in the best-of-five Southern Division championship series, which begins Wednesday. First place and home-field advantage were to be determined in Monday's action. Left-hander Scott Lewis gave up two runs on six hits over five innings in Akron's 6-3 win over Binghamton. ... Class A Kinston swept its first- and second-half division titles and will be the host team for a best-of-three playoff series against Salem, beginning Wednesday. Left fielder Nick Weglarz homered in Kinston's 3-2 win over Myrtle Beach. On deck: The Indians and Twins continue their three-game set at 8:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at the Metrodome. Left-hander Aaron Laffey (2-1, 5.01 ERA) will oppose right-hander Kevin Slowey (3-0, 5.84).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.