ST. PETERSBURG -- Indians manager Manny Acta has never been a prisoner of conventional thinking when it comes to filling out his lineup card. Center fielder Michael Brantley could certainly attest to that.
On Monday, Brantley was back in the cleanup spot for Cleveland for the opener of a four-game road set against the Rays. It marked the fourth time this season that Acta penciled in the center fielder -- an occupant of seven different spots in the batting order this season -- as the fourth hitter for the Tribe.
"He's a guy who's not going to change his approach," Acta said. "I talked to him as a formality, and said, 'Be yourself.' It was just to let him know that, 'Hey, it might happen more often now. You have done it a few times. It might happen more often now, but I know you're not going to be trying to be hitting home runs because you're hitting cleanup.' He does a good job of staying within himself."
Monday's lineup included leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo, followed by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis and Brantley. Designated hitter Travis Hafner and catcher Carlos Santana -- often in the four or five hole for the Indians -- were hitting sixth and seventh, respectively.
"I believe that the best formula for scoring runs is to bunch up your best hitters together," Acta said. "Right now, those are our four best hitters [at the top of the lineup]. Ideally for us, Santana and Hafner should be hitting in the middle of our lineup, but they're not swinging the bat the way they're capable of right now, especially with runners in scoring position.
"I really like when Michael is hitting behind both of them, because they do get on base and Michael has been swinging the bat good. But we need to take advantage of the way he's swinging the bat right now."
Brantley has just four home runs -- atypical of a cleanup man -- but he entered Monday hitting .302 with 27 doubles (second in the American League) and 44 RBIs (second on the Indians). He ranked seventh in the AL in hits (101) and boasted a .306 average with runners in scoring position (.333 with RISP and two outs).
Santana (.219) and Hafner (.132) have struggled this season with runners in scoring position.
"There are a lot more ways to drive in runs than by hitting home runs," Acta said.