MINNEAPOLIS -- Juan Gone came and went.
Juan Gonzalez, sidelined all season because of a strained right
hamstring, was activated by the Cleveland Indians from the 15-day
disabled list Tuesday. Hours later, he reaggravated the injury
while running out a grounder in the first inning -- his first major
league at-bat since May 21, 2004.
Batting cleanup and assigned to play right field, Gonzalez hit a
bouncer to third base -- and pulled up lame about halfway down the
first-base line. Television replays showed him wince as he slowed
to a jog. Casey Blake replaced him in right field for the bottom of
Manager Eric Wedge said after the Indians' 4-3 victory that the
oft-injured slugger would probably return to Cleveland to have his
leg examined and likely faces a return to the disabled list. Wedge
had to confer with general manager Mark Shapiro before a roster
move was made.
"He felt it. It was real," Wedge said. "It's just a matter of
what further tests show."
Gonzalez joined the Indians in Minnesota for the opener for the
start of a three-game series against the Twins -- and the beginning
of a season-high, 12-game road trip. To make room for Gonzalez, the
club designated outfielder Ryan Ludwick for assignment.
"Supposedly for me, I'm healthy right now," Gonzalez said
before the game. "We'll see what happens."
Unable to contribute to a team that has been struggling
offensively, Gonzalez was frustrated since getting hurt in spring
training. But he pledged to maintain a patient approach to his
latest injury return.
"One game at a time," he said.
Gonzalez was not in the clubhouse after the game.
"I feel bad for Juan," Wedge said. "The guy has put so much
time and effort into it. ... He's worked so hard. I can't even
imagine the frustration he's feeling and the emotions he's feeling
Shapiro said earlier in the day the Indians hoped to ease
Gonzalez back into an everyday player. Until then, the plan was for
Gonzalez to play "three or four games a week" in right field.
Gonzalez's arrival was supposed to mean less playing time for
Blake, a former third baseman who was moved to the outfield this
season. Blake is batting just .201. Manager Eric Wedge said
outfielders Jody Gerut and Grady Sizemore and designated hitter
Travis Hafner would also get occasional days off to accommodate
Gonzalez in the lineup.
After signing as a free agent in January, the two-time AL MVP
made Cleveland's roster during spring training but hurt his right
hamstring while making a catch on the same day Wedge announced that
Gonzalez was his starting right fielder.
Gonzalez spent several weeks at extended spring training in
Florida. He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Buffalo last week
and batted .286 with no homers and one RBI in five games for the
Shapiro said the club received good reports on Gonzalez's
At times during spring training, the 35-year-old Gonzalez pulled
pitches to left field the way he did as one of the AL's most feared
hitters for nearly a decade. Gonzalez's production has plummeted in
recent years because of injuries.
Gonzalez played in only 33 games a year ago for Kansas City
because of a back injury. A career .295 hitter, he has 434 homers
and 1,404 RBI in 14 seasons with Texas, Detroit, Cleveland and the
Royals. He's 64 hits of shy of 2,000 in his career.
Gonzalez had one of his best seasons in 2001 for Cleveland,
batting a career-best .325 with 35 homers and 140 RBI.
"Any time you add Juan Gonzalez to the mix, it's a good
thing," third baseman Aaron Boone said before the game. "I think,
as a team, we've started to play better. Hopefully he'll fit right
in. It sounds like he's healthy and ready to go. Hopefully he can
come in and be Juan Gonzalez."
Desperate for a right-handed power hitter in their lineup, the
Indians signed Gonzalez to a low-risk deal that protected the club
in case he couldn't stay healthy. The Indians owe him just $600,000
for making their opening day roster, and Gonzalez can earn another
$1.65 million in bonuses based on plate appearances and $300,000
more based on time on the active roster.
Ludwick is out of options so the Indians have 10 days to trade,
release or place him on waivers.
"It's a timing thing," Shapiro said. "He needs to play every
day right now and hopefully he'll get to do that again at Buffalo
or someone will give him a chance to."
Shapiro wouldn't say whether Ludwick has been placed on waivers
or if there has been any trade interest.
Ludwick, who has overcome two knee operations and surgery on his
hip to get back to the majors, was rarely used by Wedge in recent
weeks. Ludwick has had just one at-bat in the past seven games.
He's hitting .220 (9-for-41) with hour homers and five RBI.