Cleveland — Manager Brad Ausmus knew he'd have to answer questions about taking J.D. Martinez out of the starting lineup Tuesday.
It's not every night a manager sits one of his hottest hitters. Martinez, who hit three home runs Sunday in Yankee Stadium, has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games, hitting .317 over that stretch with three doubles, seven homers and 19 RBIs.
But, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Monday, and on this road trip he's 6 for 21.
"If he had come out yesterday after hitting three home runs and had another good day, I probably would have played him," Ausmus said.
But there was one other, rather large, reason why he didn't — Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar. Martinez is 1 for 9 against him with seven strikeouts. The last time Martinez was pulled from the starting lineup, nine games ago, was because Salazar was pitching.
"If a guy is 0 for 9 but hasn't struck out and he's put the ball in play, then there has to be a little luck factor," Ausmus said. "But strikeouts tell you a little more about how the hitter is picking up the pitches and recognizing off-speed and strikes."
Also, a good way to keep a hitter hot is to occasionally protect him against pitchers he's struggled against.
"If a guy struggles against a pitcher, you don't want to create a slump where a slump wouldn't be created," Ausmus said. "J.D. is going to play the vast majority of the games."
Rajai Davis got the start in right.
After sitting for three straight games, third baseman Nick Castellanos was back in the starting lineup. But Ausmus didn't make it sound like it was a permanent move back.
"I slid (Andrew) Romine to shortstop," Ausmus said. "So somebody had to play third."
Ausmus gave shortstop Jose Iglesias the night off.
"Iglesias looked like he could use a day off," Ausmus said.
Still, Ausmus has been encouraged by how Castellanos has handled the benching, however temporary it turns out to be.
"His attitude's been great," he said. "He's looked good in BP (batting practice), but BP is BP — it's not the game."
Castellanos has been scuffling at the plate all season, but especially lately. In his last 20 games he's hitting .143, 9 for 68 with one extra base hit and 17 strikeouts.
"I think Nick is probably getting himself out more than anything else," Ausmus said. "He's chasing pitches he can't hit and taking pitches he can hit. But I think he's in a good frame of mind and, quite frankly, I think he will have a good day."
Pitching coach Jeff Jones has been keeping tabs on Shane Greene and Bruce Rondon, both pitching in Toledo.
Greene left his last start in the fifth inning because of a blister.
"They said he was throwing OK," Jones said. "He had a little bit of a rough first inning but he threw a lot of changeups, which is what we want him to do to get a feel for it. They said he was up in the zone in the first inning but much better after that."
As for Rondon, Jones said he just needs to accumulate innings.
"The thing about him, he needs to pitch," Jones said. "He needs to get innings under his belt. His last two outings have been really good."
Jones also believes being at Triple A is motivating Rondon.
"He's young and he's never been through it before," he said. "Maybe in his mind he was just trying to get healthy (during his rocky rehab outings). He could have a different mindset now. Now I have to get to the big leagues."
Around the horn
Ausmus was asked, if he were the opposing manager, how often he would walk Miguel Cabrera.
"I probably wouldn't walk him too much, there's a lot of thunder behind him in our lineup," he said. "The more you put guys on base, the more likely they are to score. Are there times to pitch around him or walk him? Absolutely. But people get caught up in, 'Well, just walk him every single time.' That is not a formula for keeping a team from scoring."
… According to Elias Sports Bureau, Cabrera, in 10 games against the Indians this season, has 24 hits, five homers and 16 RBIs. The last player to do that kind of damage against an opponent over a 10-game span was Willie Mays, in 1958.