Tribe looking at Brantley in left field

Tribe looking at Brantley in left field

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley has played in left field more of late.

And he had better get used to it.

Going into Friday's series opener with the Orioles, Brantley had played in left in three straight games. Manager Eric Wedge moved Brantley from center to left to get him more experience at the position at the big league level. If Brantley continues to play well, he could be there for the foreseeable future.

"I'm comfortable with all three outfield positions," Brantley said. "The games a lot faster up here. There are a lot stronger guys that hit the ball with one hand and can still hit it over your head. When I was in the Minors, you didn't see that often."

When Brantley was called up earlier this month, he was inserted in center to replace Grady Sizemore, who is out for the season after having left elbow surgery.

Brantley had played mainly in center field while in the Minors, but he switched between left and center toward the end of the season at Triple-A Columbus to get more work in left.

Despite being more experienced in center, his immediate future with the team appears to be in left.

With a healthy Sizemore back in center next season and Shin-Soo Choo locked in at right, Brantley could make a play for the starting left field job. Another candidate for the position could be Trevor Crowe, but it's hard to ignore Brantley's performance this month.

"We're not to that point yet," Wedge said of anointing Brantley as the starter. "I think that's something at some point that you'd have to consider. But right now, we have enough on our plate."

While the Indians are mired in an 11-game losing streak going into Friday, Brantley has continued to be one of the team's few bright spots.

He's taken the leadoff spot and run with it. With a single in Thursday's 6-5 loss to the Tigers, Brantley has reached base in 20 of his 21 games in the Majors. He hit a two-run single off a 101-mph fastball from Justin Verlander, who is one of the best pitchers in the American League.

"He's making an argument for [the leadoff spot next season ]," Wedge said. "He's probably better suited right now in the No.1 hole. Just his approach, the way he gets on base and the way he works the ball the other way.

"With each game, you see things that help him improve."

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (3-12, 6.81 ERA)
Carmona's ongoing struggles continued in his last start against Oakland as the 25-year-old surrendered nine runs -- eight earned -- on 10 hits and one walk through 5 2/3 innings. He is now 0-4 with a 10.72 ERA (27 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings) over his past five starts -- a span that includes a .373 opponents' batting average. Wedge saw signs of progress in his start against the A's, but a five-run second inning dominated by bloop singles in the outfield doomed Carmona out of the gate.

BAL: RHP David Hernandez (4-8, 5.34 ERA)
Hernandez pitched competitively for two months, but he's struggled through his second turn around the league. The right-handed rookie went 1-4 with a 5.83 ERA in six August starts, and he's gone 0-2 with a 10.26 mark in September. Hernandez allowed just four home runs in his first eight outings -- seven of which were starts -- but he's allowed 20 home runs in his past 10 starts.

Matt LaPorta was out for the second straight game Thursday with inflammation in his left hip. He was available to pitch-hit, however. "He's better," Wedge said "Hopefully we can get him back in the lineup [on Friday]." ... The Indians outrighted left-handers Zach Jackson, Rich Rundles and R.J. Swindle off the 40-man roster and onto the Triple-A Columbus roster. The 40-man roster now stands at 36. Anthony Reyes and Jake Westbrook don't count toward that number while they are on the 60-day disabled list. ... Joe Smith (left knee sprain) threw his second bullpen session Thursday and came out of it OK. Wedge said Smith will throw at least one more bullpen before the Indians consider activating him off the disabled list. "We don't have a timetable [for Smith's return]," Wedge said, "but it would be nice for him to pitch a couple times before the season is over."

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Up next
• Saturday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 6-10, 4.92) vs. Orioles (Jason Berken, 5-12, 6.41), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Indians (David Huff, 10-8, 5.98) vs. Orioles (Chris Tillman, 2-4, 4.71), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians (Aaron Laffey, 7-7, 3.93) vs. White Sox (John Danks, 12-10, 3.82), 7:05 p.m. ET

Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.