CLEVELAND -- Eric Wedge's first day in last place began when he walked into the Indians' clubhouse Thursday, just as Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez and Jake Westbrook were leaving. It was a moment that, for Wedge, defined the season, to this point. Here was the manager arriving for a ballgame, and three of his core players had just finished their rehab work for the day.
"I'm walking in," Wedge said, "and those guys are walking out." And the Indians, as a unit, are walking backwards, it appears. The Tribe came into Thursday's series finale vs. the Giants in last place in the American League Central, 7 1/2 games back of the White Sox. It is the latest an Indians team has been in last place since 1993, when the club was still competing in the AL East. Wedge, though, places more weight upon the number of games his club is back than the number of teams ahead of him and his Indians. "[Last place is] not where you want to be, obviously," he said. "But we're still in late June, and we've got a long way to go. You've got to look at how many games back, moreso than where you are. If we have a great week, and [the White Sox] have a bad week, you'll be asking me different questions." But here's a question that can be asked right now: Is there reason to believe this club, as currently constructed, can get back into serious Central contention? Earlier this month, the Indians showed some signs of hope in that regard. The offense, in particular, averaged 6.3 runs per game in its first 15 games in June. For the most part, it's been back to reality ever since. The Indians were swept in Colorado last week, managed a pair of extra-innings victories over the Dodgers in Los Angeles but fell on the final day of the series and dropped the first two games of this series against the Giants while scoring a grand total of three runs. That tailspin, combined with the hot play of the Royals, has brought the Tribe to this lowly state. But Wedge, ever the optimist, doesn't expect the Indians to remain here long. He sees a club vastly rearranged by the injuries to Carmona, Martinez, Westbrook and Travis Hafner and the ineffectiveness of Asdrubal Cabrera and a club consisting of players thrust into roles they were not expected to have. "We've got young guys in a situation that's not fair for them to be in, out of necessity," Wedge said. "But I think they're going to get better. With the energy they're bringing, we're going to get better." The punchline, of course, is that a last-place club has nowhere to go but up.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.