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Sizemore may slide out of leadoff spot

Sizemore may slide out of leadoff spot

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CLEVELAND -- Grady Sizemore loves batting leadoff. It's the spot he's held since 2005, the spot where he's most comfortable and the spot that once seemed his long-term home in the Indians' lineup.

But the fact is, Sizemore hasn't been much of a leadoff hitter in 2009 -- to the point where manager Eric Wedge is actually considering the bold move of bumping Sizemore down.

Whether the move will come at any point during the Tribe's three-city, 10-game road trip, which begins Thursday night at Tampa Bay, remains to be seen. Truth be known, it might not come at all, if Sizemore finds his swing. But the fact that Wedge is considering it at all is an indication of the Indians' current instability.

Though he didn't sound thrilled with the scenario, Sizemore said he would accept being dropped down.

"I'll hit wherever they want," he said. "Leadoff is where I'm comfortable. But if [Wedge] is going to change the lineup to help the team, we have to do anything we can to keep it going and be consistent."

When it comes to setting the tone for a game, Sizemore has not done his job at No. 1. In 34 games, he has reached base in the first inning just six times. He is 2-for-30 with four walks, 10 strikeouts and four runs scored in the first inning.

Those struggles set the tone for Sizemore's overall trouble to be a consistent offensive force in the lineup this season. He's had some hard-hit balls of late, and he drove in a run with a fifth-inning single in Wednesday's win over the White Sox. But his overall numbers (.228 average and .311 on-base percentage) leave quite a bit to be desired, especially from the leadoff perspective.

"He's a great player going through a tough time," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He will not be outworked. If there's any guy in this league, and certainly on this team, that deserves patience and some acceptance that he's going through a tough period, it's that guy. There's not a guy that plays harder or works harder and there are only so many guys who care as much as he does. This guy's going to work hard and get out of it."

If Sizemore is at all hampered by the left groin strain he suffered in Spring Training, he's not letting on. The injury at least would help to explain why he's 5-for-11 in stolen-base attempts, but the Indians have said he's fully healed.

There is some thinking within the organization that Sizemore might benefit offensively from dropping down in the order to ease the pressure on him, but Wedge hasn't done it yet. Second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera has to be considered a candidate to take over the No. 1 spot, as he's shown improvement in plate discipline and has swung a hot bat this season.

As for Sizemore, he's working to improve, but he's shown some mechanical flaws with his swing that need to be corrected.

"I'm still not where I want to be [offensively]," Sizemore said. "I try to focus on the team and now how I'm doing. I would just like to see more consistency and get better, day by day. I'm trying to get on base and score runs."

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (1-4, 5.57 ERA)
Carmona's overall line against the Tigers was solid Saturday, but he blinked first in a pitchers' duel with Edwin Jackson and took the loss. Carmona allowed two runs on four hits with six walks and four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The walks remain the great separator keeping Carmona from recapturing his '07 magic. In this outing, he walked two batters to open the seventh, and both runners wound up crossing the plate for the game's first two runs. Carmona is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in three career appearances against the Rays. He lost his lone start against them last year.

TB: RHP James Shields (3-3, 4.02 ERA)
Shields seemed to have everything working in his last start Friday night against the Red Sox, when he posted five scoreless innings. But the Red Sox erupted for five runs in the sixth -- all of the runs scored on two home runs -- and Shields took his third loss of the season. The right-hander has earned his reputation as a pitcher who will do whatever is necessary to pitch his team into the seventh or eighth inning, which is evidenced by two consecutive seasons with 215 innings pitched. The right-hander is 21-8 with a 3.30 ERA in 44 career starts at Tropicana Field. Shields is 0-2 with a 3.76 ERA in four career starts against the Indians.

Tidbits
The Indians will make a roster move before Thursday's game to get veteran right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino on the roster. Vizcaino, released by the Cubs late last month, threw two live batting practice sessions for the Indians this week. "He seems to command the ball very well," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "The second BP session, the ball came out of his hand much better. It showed some sink. His slider is tough to pick up." It is not known whose place on the active roster Vizcaino will take. ... Cliff Lee has not allowed a run over his last 20 innings pitched against the White Sox, dating back to July 1 of last season. ... Victor Martinez has hit safely in 20 of 22 games. ... Jhonny Peralta is batting .429 (9-for-21) with five RBIs over his last five games.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Friday: Indians (Anthony Reyes, 1-1, 7.20) at Rays (Scott Kazmir, 4-3, 5.92), 7:38 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Indians (Carl Pavano, 3-3, 6.45) at Rays (Matt Garza, 3-2, 3.56), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 0-2, 12.00) at Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 1-4, 7.27), 1:38 p.m. ET

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

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