CLEVELAND -- The Indians are giving sinkerballer Justin Masterson time to rest his sore right knee and sort through his persistent struggles.
Prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees, Cleveland placed Masterson on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his knee, which has bothered the pitcher off and on since early this season. Without the need for a fifth starter until Saturday, the Indians promoted lefty Nick Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus to give the bullpen an extra arm for the next four days.
"Masty's first inclination was wanting to pitch through it, which I think we respect," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We thought, we DL him, get him some treatment for the first couple days, whatever he needs with his knee.
"Then, when he feels good, almost treat it like Spring Training with [pitching coach Mickey Callaway], going every other day off the mound once he's able to handle that physically, just to get the repetition. That's our best way to get him back on track."
Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar would be the top two candidates to start for Cleveland on Saturday against the White Sox.
In Monday's 5-3 loss to the Yankees, Masterson was charged with five runs on six hits in only two innings, marking the third straight outing in which he logged no more than four innings. Over his past three starts, Masterson has posted a 13.00 ERA with 13 earned runs allowed on 20 hits and 10 walks in nine innings. The right-hander has a 7.16 ERA in 11 starts dating back to May 13.
"He just has run into, when there's been runners on base, he's lost his command," Francona said. "It's been difficult for him to find it and throw the strikes he needs to -- not just throw a ball over the plate to get back into the count and somebody whacks it, but to execute a pitch."
Masterson -- 4-6 with a career-worst 5.51 ERA through 19 starts this season -- already has made eight starts in which he logged fewer than five innings, the most such starts in the American League. While it is fair to note that one of those starts was shortened due to rain, Masterson is the first Indians starter since Cliff Lee in 2004 to have at least eight such starts in a single season. Lee also had eight that year.
Masterson will be eligible to be activated by the Indians on July 23 at the earliest. At a minimum, he would only miss two starts due to next week's four-day All-Star break. The timing of the DL stint also gives the Tribe the ability to keep its starting staff in order without bringing Masterson back before he is deemed ready.
Thanks to a doubleheader in Detroit on July 19, when the Indians have the option of calling up a starter as a 26th player, and a team off-day on July 28, Cleveland could technically keep its rotation intact without Masterson deep into August. That schedule gives Cleveland the flexibility of working with Masterson on the best time to add him back to the rotation.
Francona hoped the DL stint would also give Masterson a mental break.
"I think we need to make it that way," said the manager. "I think physically he needed it, but certainly it could help him. We talked about that last night."