CLEVELAND -- Jack Hannahan has been a valuable piece within the Indians' offense through the season's first six weeks and the club does not want to risk losing the third baseman for an extended period of time.
That explains why Hannahan was not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the White Sox at Progressive Field. The third baseman is currently nursing a sore left groin, but the injury is not considered serious.
"He tweaked it a little bit while swinging the bat last night," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Wednesday afternoon. "He's playable, but we want to be on the safe side and keep him out tonight. Hopefully, we'll have him tomorrow and not make it any worse."
Entering Wednesday, Hannahan was hitting .291 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 26 games. He would have seemed to be a logical choice to put in the lineup, considering Chicago had righty Jake Peavy on the hill for the series finale. Hannahan headed into Wednesday's action batting .339 against right-handers.
Hannahan indicated that he expects to be able to return to the lineup on Thursday, when Cleveland opens a four-game set with the Red Sox in Boston. On Tuesday, the third baseman went 2-for-4 in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox. Over his past five games, Hannahan hit .214 (3-for-14).
Choo not yet in rhythm offensively
CLEVELAND -- Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo headed into this season with the belief that a clear mind would lead to strong results. Choo might still turn in a solid showing when it is all said and done, but it seems as though he is putting too much pressure on himself at the moment.
That is the way Tribe manager Manny Acta views the situation.
"At times, some of those guys, they want to do too much," Acta said on Wednesday. "As much as you talk to them, it's hard for them to understand that they're not going to go from .200 to .300. It's got to continue to be one at-bat at a time, continue to work and stay positive.
"He's shown some signs. Here and there he's done some good things. We need him."
Entering Wednesday, Choo was hitting .221 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 23 games. The right fielder was riding a five-game hitting streak -- seeing his average climb from .209 over that span -- but his overall production remains down. Acta was quick to note that Choo missed six games earlier this season because of a hamstring injury.
"The fact that he lost about a week of seeing pitches didn't help him," Acta said.
Still, Choo has been inconsistent, and his offensive struggles seem similar to last year.
Last season, Choo was limited to 85 games because of a variety of injuries, and he also dealt with the backlash of his May arrest for driving under the influence. On the year, he hit .259 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs for the Indians, but he dedicated himself to a rigorous offseason training program. Choo also felt he found some mental peace over the winter months.
So far, the results have not backed up that belief.
"He's got a lot of pride, man. He's a proud man," Acta said. "He wants to win bad. He's shown me that from Day 1 when I got over there. You can't fault him for that. It's easy for everyone to say, 'Just relax,' when you're not the one carrying the load."
Hernandez's future remains in limbo
CLEVELAND -- The Indians remain uncertain about when starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez might obtain the proper paperwork in order to head back to the United States. In the meantime, manager Manny Acta remains in regular contact with the right-hander.
"He says hello," Acta said with a smirk on Wednesday afternoon.
Hernandez has been sequestered in his native Dominican Republic since his Jan. 19 arrest for identity fraud after years of using the name Fausto Carmona. The charges have since been dropped by the authorities in the D.R., but Hernandez still needs a working visa or waiver from the United States government.
Acta noted on Wednesday that Hernandez's representatives initially believed the issue would have been cleared up by now.
"His side, the people that represent him," Acta said, "we're very optimistic that it had a very good chance to be resolved. But, unfortunately, that wasn't the case. That's something that it's out of his camp's and our camp's hands, as you guys all know."
As a result, Cleveland still does not know when Hernandez will be able to return to the United States or to the ballclub. Hernandez, who has gone 53-66 with a 4.59 ERA in six seasons with the Tribe, continues to train at the Indians' academy in the Dominican Republic.
Hernandez -- currently on baseball's restricted list -- would likely need a stint in the Minor Leagues before potentially rejoining the rotation. Acta said it was unlikely that the pitcher would be ready to immediately step back into the starting staff.
"I doubt that that would happen," Acta said.
Quote to note
"Hands down, he's the best player in the American League. He plays a premium position. He's a legit five-tool guy. At times, like last night, he looks like a 15-year-old playing with 10-year-olds. He's that talented."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, when asked for his reaction to Texas' Josh Hamilton hitting four home runs in a win over Baltimore on Tuesday
Right-hander Josh Tomlin currently leads the Indians rotation with seven strikeouts per nine innings. Last year, Tomlin ranked last on the starting staff with an average of 4.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Tomlin has already reached 30 percent (27) of his 2011 strikeout total (89) in only 21 percent (34 2/3) of his 2011 innings total (165 1/3).
Indians hitters headed into Wednesday's action averaging 3.97 pitches per plate appearance. That was the second-best rate in baseball, trailing only the New York Mets (3.99). Cleveland had three of the American League's Top 10 in terms of pitches per plate apperance: Shelley Duncan (third, 4.56), Carlos Santana (fourth, 4.46) and Casey Kotchman (10th, 4.21).
The Indians entered Wednesday with a Major League-leading 139 walks, having drawn at least one free pass in each of the team's first 29 games. San Diego ranked second with 122 free passes and Tampa Bay ranked third with 116 walks. Cleveland ranked fourth in the Majors with a .339 team on-base percentage.