BALTIMORE -- There remains no clear sense of when left-handed reliever Rafael Perez might be ready to rejoin the Indians' bullpen. All Cleveland has conveyed is some optimism that the lefty will pitch again for the team this season.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Tribe's left-handed options have labored.
"Just like everything in life," Acta said, "you don't know how much you're going to miss somebody until they're actually not there."
Prior to Thursday's game against the Orioles, the Indians optioned left-hander Scott Barnes (7.71 ERA in five appearances) to Triple-A Columbus in order to promote right-handed starter Zach McAllister. In Perez's absence, the Indians have relied on lefties Tony Sipp, Nick Hagadone and Barnes.
Perez, who fought velocity issues early on this year, was placed on the disabled list on April 26 with a strained left lat muscle. The lefty -- in his seventh season with the Indians -- had a 3.52 ERA through eight games before being shelved.
Last season, Perez and Sipp formed a solid one-two left-handed punch out of the bullpen. This year, Sipp has struggled to the tune of a 6.66 ERA through 29 appearances. Over his last nine outings, the lefty has posted an 8.68 ERA with half of his hits allowed (5-of-10) being home runs.
Hagadone -- a rookie reliever for the Indians -- has posted an 18.00 ERA (12 earned runs on 14 hits in six innings) in his last eight appearances, entering Thursday. Before that ugly stretch, the 26-year-old lefty had a 2.04 ERA in his first 17 outings.
The combined woes of Sipp and Hagadone of late have made the loss of Perez more noticeable.
"He's a very durable guy who has done a very good job for us," Acta said of Perez. "I think we have been able to notice missing him more because of the struggles Tony has had. He was a guy that when he was here, and either one of them were struggling, we could lean on the other guy up until the other guy came out of it."
Santana out of Thursday's lineup
BALTIMORE -- Carlos Santana did not find his name in the starting lineup for Thursday's game against the Orioles and that was just fine with the Indians catcher. Santana feels he could benefit from a physical and mental break.
"I think it's good for me," Santana said. "I've been thinking too much and I think this day off will help me relax."
Santana was removed from Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Yankees in the ninth inning due to mid-back tightness, which the catcher said was related to the right side soreness he has battled for the past few days. The catcher was re-evaluated by head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff on Thursday.
Indians manager Manny Acta did not believe it was a situation that could lead to a stint on the disabled list.
"Carlos is much better. He tested very well for Lonnie," Acta said prior to Thursday's game. "We're going to try to give him the day off completely today and then see where he's at tomorrow.
"We feel that if he has to play, he could play, but we just want to give him the day off."
Beyond being banged up, Santana has been struggling with a persistent slump. Through the first six games of the current road trip, he was mired in a 1-for-16 funk. Dating back to May 18, Santana has hit just .151 (14-for-93) over 27 games.
The switch-hitting Santana also has just a .200 (14-for-70) average against left-handed pitchers. On Thursday, the Orioles threw lefty Wei-Yin Chen at the Tribe, making it an opportune time to give the catcher some rest.
Santana said he has been working to correct some timing issues with his swing mechanics.
"I'm moving a lot with my legs," Santana said. "And I swing hard with my body. I have too many things moving. Right now, I know I'm moving too much."
Acta holds closed-door meeting
BALTIMORE -- Given his team's recent struggles, Indians manager Manny Acta felt the time had come to get everyone together and talk things over.
At 4:30 p.m. ET, prior to Thursday night's game against the Orioles, Acta held a closed-door team meeting with his players and coaching staff. Acta said it was less about sending a message and more about reminding the club that every team goes through rough patches.
"It was just basically to talk to the guys," Acta said, "and make sure they know it's a very long season, a roller coaster where you go up and down -- how just a week ago when we left Cleveland we were sitting pretty in first place and then a week later you go through a struggle and you're where you're at.
"It's about staying positive, sticking together and just making sure you do what you're supposed to do and not panic and try to do too much."
Before embarking on the current 10-game swing through Houston, New York and Baltimore, the Indians were coming off a sweep of the National League Central-leading Reds and sat in first place in the American League Central. The Tribe has since gone 1-5 and was swept by the Yankees in New York.
Entering Thursday's action, the Indians were 2 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox in the division.
"This is something that every team goes through," Acta said. "Our whole division has gone through it already. Some teams did it early in the year. We're going through it right now."
Hafner could be activated Monday
BALTIMORE -- If everything goes according to plan, Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner might be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Monday, when Cleveland returns home for the start of a seven-game homestand.
"That's realistic, yeah," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Thursday. "Unless he doesn't feel right by then. But it's realistic that he could do that."
Hafner, who is on the 15-day DL due to a right knee injury, went 1-for-3 in a Minor League rehab appearance with Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday. The 35-year-old DH was slated to rest on Thursday before serving as a DH again for Columbus on Friday.
Hafner underwent a right medial meniscectomy at the Cleveland Clinic on May 31, and the 30-minute procedure was performed by Dr. Rick Parker and Dr. Mark Schicendantz.
This marks the sixth stint on the disabled list for Hafner over the course of the past five seasons. Hafner has previously been shelved due to right shoulder issues (2008, '09 and '10), as well as right oblique and right foot injuries ('11).
Through 39 games this season, Hafner is hitting .242 with six home runs, six doubles and 23 RBIs. After hitting .357 with a 1.081 OPS over his first 12 games of the season, Hafner posted a .189 average with a .693 OPS over his next 27 games prior to the injury.
Acta said the reports from Hafner's first Minor League rehab game were good.
"He did well," Acta said. "He was able to go first to third [base]running. So it went well."
Quote to note
"Everything has been blown out of proportion. We've lost five games in a row. We just won four in a row before we lost these five in a row. It's something that you have to keep in perspective and know that every team goes through it."
--Indians manager Manny Acta
• On Thursday, the Indians signed Kent State University infielder Nick Hamilton, who was selected by the Tribe in the 35th round of the First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. With the signing of Hamilton, who is the son of Indians radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton, Cleveland has now signed 19 of its 40 Draft selections.
• The Orioles have altered their rotation and will feature lefty Dana Eveland as Saturday's starter against the Indians. Cleveland will face three southpaws in the four-game series in Baltimore. The Tribe entered Thursday with a 6-16 record against lefty starters and were tied for last in the Majors with a .216 team batting average against left-handers.
• The Indians headed into Thursday ranked sixth in the American League with a .323 team on-base percentage. Cleveland was tied for fifth in the league with an average of 3.88 pitches seen per plate appearance.