No. 3 hole offers chance for experience

No. 3 hole offers chance for experience

TORONTO -- Manager Eric Wedge didn't think it was fair for Ben Francisco to have to bat in the No. 3 spot of the Indians' lineup from late May until last week.

And in all truth, it's probably not fair for Kelly Shoppach to be batting there now.

But the Indians, with middle-of-the-order hitters Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez on the disabled list, have had to get creative with their lineups, and Francisco and Shoppach have been exposed to the high-profile spot.

When asked what he thinks of Shoppach batting third, Wedge, who is merely playing the hand he's dealt, didn't exactly sound thrilled.

"It's an opportunity for him to hit in a primary spot in the order," Wedge said. "He's done a good job, his approach has been consistent, he's driving the ball. I don't see him ending up there, but, with where we're at, it's a good opportunity for him."

Shoppach earned the opportunity with his strong play since taking over the everyday catching duties from Martinez. Before a rough game Sunday, in which he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, Shoppach had hit .303 with 16 doubles, nine homers and 28 RBIs in a 43-game stretch.

Those are numbers worthy of the No. 3 spot, but it will be interesting to see how Shoppach handles batting third for a prolonged period.

Shoppach will probably be batting third when the Indians open a 10-game homestand against the Orioles on Monday, but he won't be hitting there long if his recent trend continues. It's only five games, but it's nonetheless worth noting that Shoppach has hit just .125 (2-for-16) with 10 strikeouts since moving to No. 3.

Francisco also had trouble hitting in the three-hole.

Consider that in the 20 games he played before he was moved to No. 3 on May 26, Francisco batted .353 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .603 slugging percentage. From May 26 until Tuesday, when he was dropped down in the order and Shoppach was moved up, Francisco hit .249 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .415 slugging percentage.

Of course, the reasons behind Francisco's dip are probably just as much attributable to the league adjusting to the youngster as they are to his rise in the order. Shoppach, who is getting his first prolonged exposure to everyday play, might be due for a similar correction.

That's why, all things being equal, Wedge would rather have Hafner and Martinez back. Both players are nearing readiness for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, with Martinez possibly going out this coming weekend.

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (5-4, 4.46 ERA)
Carmona has struggled to find his groove since coming back from the DL. His control was out of whack on Tuesday against the Rays, as he allowed four runs on three hits with five walks and four strikeouts in four innings. The Indians want him to more consistently find the proper release point on his pitches, most notably his once-trusty sinker. Carmona was 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two starts against the Orioles last year.

BAL: RHP Dennis Sarfate (4-2, 4.58 ERA)
Sarfate has yet to complete five innings in either of his first two starts, and he'll be watched closely for progress in his next outing. If Sarfate isn't able to throw a better strike-to-ball ratio or work deeper into the game, he may head back to the bullpen. And if he does, the Orioles would probably swap in Hayden Penn from Triple-A Norfolk.

The Indians haven't faced the Orioles since May 2007. They have played the National League's Cincinnati Reds 12 times since. ... Shin-Soo Choo went 7-for-13 with four doubles, three RBIs and four runs scored during the three-game sweep of the Blue Jays. ... David Dellucci went 11-for-18 with two doubles, one walk, six RBIs, five runs scored and two home runs during the just-completed nine-game road trip. ... In Sunday's 4-0 win, Cliff Lee avoided walking a batter for the ninth time this season.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Orioles (Garrett Olson, 8-6, 6.06) at Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-6, 5.70), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 9-8, 3.26) at Indians (Anthony Reyes, 3-1, 3.86), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, 8-7, 4.78) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 7-10, 4.53), 7:05 p.m. ET

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