Cleveland Indians notebook: Strikeouts not coming at expected rate, and that’s good

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DETROIT: When the season began, many observers expected the Indians’ offense to be at or near the top of the American League in strikeouts, having signed former league leaders Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds.

But so far, the Tribe is nowhere near the team lead, nor are Stubbs and Reynolds striking out at expected rates.

Manager Terry Francona is happy that his club is not living up to projections, but he also isn’t going to lose sleep about it.

“The best way for me to get the best out of my players is not to harp on what they can’t do but what they do well,” he said. “What we’re looking for is production.”

Production is likely to increase if hitters make more contact, and that is what has happened.

Going into Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers, the Indians and Minnesota Twins were tied for eighth with 266 strikeouts. The Houston Astros have struck out the most (360 times).

Stubbs is tied for 15th place with 35 strikeouts, and Reynolds is tied for 18th with 34. The only other Tribe batsman among the top 30 is Asdrubal Cabrera (tied for 27th) with 30 strikeouts.

EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT IT — Attendance at Progressive Field has been rock bottom this season, with the Tribe ranking last in the major leagues.

“It’s early, it’s been cold and school is still in,” Francona said. “It’s my responsibility to get our team to play the best baseball it can and make the fans be proud of the team. I think attendance will get better.”

Francona said it’s not fair to compare circumstances today with the mid-to-late 1990s, when Progressive Field was sold out for every game.

“People say we should get back to the ’90s,” he said. “But the city is not the same as it was in the ’90s. There have been some hard times since.”

TAKING A BREAK — Stubbs got the night off after starting 22 games in a row.

“Of all the guys, Drew never sat through all of this,” Francona said.

BAUER RETURNING — Trevor Bauer will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus to make his third start of the season in the second game of the makeup doubleheader Monday against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. Justin Masterson will start the first game.

TOO TOUGH — Are Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder the most lethal three-four combo in all of baseball?

Cabrera is batting .382 with seven homers and 40 RBI; Fielder is batting .298 with nine homers and 33 RBI.

“One of [Jim] Leyland’s things is to make you have to pitch to them as much as possible,” Francona said. “And when there’s a runner on first with those guys coming up, he’s already in scoring position.”

How do you play defense against Cabrera and Fielder?

“You can shift all you want, but unless there’s somebody in the bleachers, you don’t have the field covered fully,” Francona said.

FARM FACTS — Jordan Smith had two hits and two RBI in Carolina’s 10-3 loss to Lynchburg in Class A. Jerrud Sabourin doubled and singled to lift his average to .328.

— Sheldon Ocker

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