CLEVELAND -- After tinkering with a splitter since Spring Training, right-hander Zach McAllister decided the time had come to take his new pitch into a game. He picked his April 24 road start against the White Sox to give it a trial run.
"When he told me he was going to throw it," manager Terry Francona said, "I said, 'Hey, get a left-handed hitter when you're ahead, and get him in swing mode. Create some confidence.'"
Two pitches into that start, McAllister fired a 79-mph splitter to lefty Alejandro De Aza.
"I thought that was a little early," Francona said with a laugh. "But that kind of shows you how he feels about it. He's a confident kid."
During the spring, Francona, pitching coach Mickey Callaway and bullpen coach Kevin Cash took a look at McAllister's large frame and long fingers and decided he was a perfect fit for the split. The fact that McAllister was struggling with his breaking ball helped convince the staff to suggest trying the new pitch in a bullpen session.
McAllister was willing to give it a shot.
"I was openminded. It felt pretty comfortable, so I stuck with it," McAllister said. "It's just another pitch I can have at my disposal. Having too many pitches can be a bad thing, but if you use it in the right situations, it can be to your advantage."
It did not take long for McAllister to gain a feel for the pitch, either.
"This kid learns so fast it scares me," Francona said. "You can walk past him in the fourth inning of a game when somebody else is pitching, say something to him, and you'll see him take it to the game his next game. It's unbelievable."
McAllister estimated that he used the splitter between seven to 10 times against the A's on Tuesday, when he turned in 7 2/3 shutout innings en route to the Indians' 1-0 win. It simply gives him another offering to go along with his bread-and-butter fastball, slider and changeup.
Francona said that the coaching staff has emphasized sticking to his strengths, though.
"It'll be a work in progress," Francona said. "We don't want to turn him into a soft-throwing right-hander. But it's a weapon for him, and I think it'll increase as he gets comfortable with it."
Gomes living up to his potential
CLEVELAND -- The Indians jumped at the opportunity to acquire Yan Gomes over the offseason. They felt he had the potential to develop into an everyday catcher in the big leagues, and he has only solidified that belief with his play behind the plate.
Gomes can often be seen meeting with pitchers in the clubhouse, and on the field he has displayed solid game-calling ability to go along with a strong throwing arm. The 25-year-old -- acquired in a trade with Toronto in November -- played a variety of positions in the Blue Jays' system last season, but the Indians wanted him to focus solely on catching.
"He's pretty eager to take in everything," manager Terry Francona said. "We saw that in Spring Training. Even with his lack of really catching a lot, he's really grasped game planning and things like that. He's understanding that his job is to get the pitcher through the game. There's a lot of things that impressed us, but that was one of them."
Entering Wednesday's game with the A's, Cleveland's pitching staff had combined for a 2.89 ERA over Gomes' 84 innings behind the plate. That's the fourth-lowest such ERA in the Majors among backstops wth at least 80 innings logged.
"He works hard at it," said righty Zach McAllister, who turned in 7 2/3 shutout innings with Gomes catching on Tuesday. "He's played a lot of positions in the Minor Leagues, but he takes a lot of pride in what he does back there. He wants to be successful."
The Indians also boast a 10-2 record when Gomes appears in a game.
"This spring we were really pleased, because we didn't quite know [what to expect]," Francona said. "We wanted to see him catch, because we thought we had a chance for an everyday catcher. You never pass up that opportunity. That's why we sent him to Triple-A [to start the season]. He's getting better fast. It's very exciting."
Bourn could be back with Indians this weekend
CLEVELAND -- The way things are progressing, the Indians might have center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn back in time for this weekend's series against the Tigers, but manager Terry Francona is being careful not to look that far ahead.
"If he needs more games," Francona said of Bourn, who is on a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus, "we're going to do whatever is in his best interest."
Bourn, who has been sidelined since lacerating his right index finger on April 14, went 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in seven innings as Columbus' center felder on Tuesday. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout for the Clippers on Wednesday, with general manager Chris Antonetti in attendance to monitor his performance.
Francona said that Bourn would be re-evaluated following that game.
"We'll see how he feels and kind of go from there," Francona said. "He had a really good night [on Tuesday]."
In 10 games before the injury, Bourn hit .333 with two home runs, four doubles, one triple, two RBIs and seven runs. While he has been on the disabled list, Drew Stubbs has filled in admirably as the center fielder, and utility man Ryan Raburn has performed well offensively as the temporary right fielder (Stubbs' position).
Entering Wednesday, the Indians were 11-8 in 19 games without Bourn, averaging 5.5 runs on 10.2 hits in those contests.
"If Bourny were here [for those 19 games], who knows?" Francona said. "We don't know if we'd have been better or not, because a lot of it goes to if a guy is hot in a short period of time. I do know that over the course of a long period of time, [being without Bourn] would certainly affect us.
"But because of Raburn -- the way he's swung the bat in the short term -- we've gotten a lot of offensive production. And Drew went out to center field and played it as good as you can and has swung the bat also. Saying that, we'll be glad to get [Bourn] back."
DeVito named Indians' honorary bat girl
CLEVELAND -- Colleen DeVito has used her story of breast cancer survival to educate others who might face a similar battle. On Wednesday, Major League Baseball rewarded her with a great platform from which to accomplish that goal.
DeVito was named one of the 30 winners of the 2013 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, representing the Indians. The program was created four years ago to recognize fans who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease.
The aim is to raise awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat for Breast Cancer" initiative, celebrated on Mother's Day throughout Major League Baseball.
DeVito, who has overcome multiple surgeries related to breast cancer and melanoma, chaired the Survivor Ceremony as part of Race for the Cure in Cleveland. In addition, she was sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the Cure in attending the Young Survivors Conference.
The 30 winners -- one per club -- will be recognized at Major League ballparks on Mother's Day, or on an alternative date by away teams.
Quote to note
"I think as an industry, baseball is very aware and trying to do something. But until you have the right answer, you kind of just have to keep working at it. That's the best answer. There is no perfect answer right now. It scares everybody when it happens. It doesn't matter what uniform you have on. It takes your breath away. It makes you nervous." -- manager Terry Francona, discussing a pitcher's vulnerability in the wake of Toronto's J.A. Happ being struck in the head by a line drive
• Pitching prospect Trevor Bauer turned in an unusual line in his start for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. The 22-year-old right-hander held Charlotte hitless over 6 2/3 innings but also finished with two runs allowed, four walks, four hit batsmen, seven strikeouts and one wild pitch.
"He's still developing," manager Terry Francona said of the wild performance. "I think that's part of any 22-year-old pitcher. He's still developing. I don't think anybody's a finished product that young."
Cleveland will need a starter for one of the games of Monday's doubleheader against the Yankees. Bauer, who served as a spot starter on April 6 and May 1, is a possibility, but Francona sidestepped questions about any potential promotions.
• Francona indicated that rehabbing starter Brett Myers (on the 15-day disabled list since April 20 with an injured right elbow) is scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Friday, when the team is in Detroit. Myers will throw to catcher Lou Marson, who is on the 15-day DL with soreness in his right shoulder.
• Entering Wednesday, the Indians had hit at a .286 clip over their past 20 games, raising their season average from .241 to .271, which ranks third in the Majors behind the Rockies and Tigers. The Tribe also ranks in the top three in the Majors in home runs (tied for first, with 44), slugging percentage (first, .470), extra-base hits (third, 113) and total bases (third, 490).
• Setup man Vinnie Pestano, who was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday with tendinitis in his right elbow, will likely take at least two more days off before resuming a throwing program, according to Francona. Pestano is eligible to be activated on May 16.
• The Indians eked out a 1-0 victory over the A's on Tuesday behind one unearned run. It marked the first time since July 3, 1968 (when Luis Tiant struck out 19 in a 10-inning victory over Minnesota), that Cleveland won a 1-0 contest without an earned run and was also outhit by its opponent.