CLEVELAND -- The Indians are in need of some offensive improvement, but the club has no immediate plans of promoting hot-hitting prospect Jesus Aguilar.
The 23-year-old Aguilar has been on an offensive tear with Triple-A Columbus early on this season, building on his strong showing last year and over the offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League. Indians manager Terry Francona said the first baseman is definitely on Cleveland's radar, but there is not a spot for him at the moment.
"He's doing a really good job," Francona said. "I guess the way he plays would probably [influence a promotion]. I mean, we're not going to put [first baseman Nick Swisher] on the bench, but you don't ever know what's going to happen health-wise. If he ends up being a possibility here, we'd be thrilled, because that means he's doing really well.
"He's an exciting guy for the organization. He went to winter ball and kind of started to make a name for himself. It seems like he's picking up where he left off."
Through 29 games for Columbus, Aguilar has hit .337 with seven home runs, seven doubles, 14 runs, 17 walks and 17 RBIs to go along with a .430 on-base percentage and .606 slugging percentage. Aguilar set a Double-A Akron record in 2013 with 105 RBIs, and hit .291 with 34 homers, 35 doubles and 155 RBIs in 188 games (725 at-bats) between Akron and Caracas (winter ball) last year.
With the Indians in Spring Training, Aguilar went 0-for-15 in 11 Cactus League games.
"We're not calling him up [right now]," Francona said. "He needs to play, but at some point, you never know."
Kottaras designated to clear room for Tomlin
CLEVELAND -- George Kottaras was king for a day in Cleveland. After rewriting a section of the Indians' record book on Sunday, the veteran third-string catcher was designated for assignment by the club on Tuesday.
The Indians cut ties with Kottaras in order to officially promote right-hander Josh Tomlin from Triple-A Columbus to start against the Twins on Tuesday. The decision on Kottaras was not announced until shortly before Indians manager Terry Francona met with reporters at 4 p.m. ET.
"We had to do it," Francona said. "We went 'round and 'round and 'round. That's part of why we did it so late."
During Sunday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox, Kottaras launched a home run in his first two at-bats for Cleveland, which promoted him from Triple-A one day earlier when catcher Yan Gomes was placed on the paternity list. Kottaras became the first player in Indians history to belt a home run in each of his first two career plate appearances for the ballclub.
The 30-year-old Kottaras went 2-for-3 on Sunday after a 2-for-25 showing for Columbus. In parts of seven Major League seasons, the backup catcher has hit .216 over 296 games. The Indians signed Kottaras to a Minor League deal on March 31 -- five days after the Cubs released him.
Francona, who managed Kottaras briefly with the Red Sox in 2008-09, said Cleveland was left with little choice with the catcher. Now, the Indians will have 10 days to either trade or release Kottaras, or reassign him to the Minors if he clears waivers.
The Tribe needed to make a move to add Tomlin, but optioning a reliever was not possible with setup man Cody Allen and closer John Axford unavailable to pitch on Tuesday due to their recent workload. The Indians also needed to keep outfielder Nyjer Morgan on the roster, because center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring tightness) was still out, but the injury is not considered serious enough to warrant a trip to the 15-day disabled list.
"So, we end up having to designate George Kottaras, which we didn't want to do," Francona said. "That was a tough conversation. George is one of everybody's favorites that's ever been around him. We just couldn't figure out a way [to keep him]."
Bourn could return to Tribe this week
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are becoming increasingly confident that center fielder Michael Bourn's latest hamstring issue will not require a trip to the disabled list.
Prior to Tuesday's game against the Twins, Bourn tested out his left hamstring with a series of running and agility drills in left field at Progressive Field. Indians manager Terry Francona and head athletic trainer James Quinlan closely monitored the workout.
"He did pretty well," Francona said. "He got out there, got some length to his stride, got some intensity to it, did some high leg drills, did some bounding back and forth. He thinks he's, at max, a couple days away [from playing]."
Bourn took part in batting practice and also tracked down fly balls on Tuesday. Francona noted that the center fielder is scheduled to run the bases on Wednesday, meaning that Bourn might be cleared to return to the lineup for the Tribe as early as Thursday.
During Saturday's game against the White Sox, Bourn exited due to tightness in his left hamstring. It is the same hamstring that he strained during Spring Training -- necessitating a trip to the DL to open the season -- and had surgically repaired on Oct. 5 after tearing it in September.
Bourn did not undergo an additional MRI exam this time, but said all indications are that the latest issue is a case of scar tissue breaking up.
"I have all my strength. [Scar tissue] is all it was," Bourn said. " It's been feeling better every day. The last time, I could tell [it was more serious], because it was more sore the next day that I got up. I could just tell the strength of it wasn't the same. I couldn't hold it up. It was mildly strained. This time, it's not that way. For the most part, I feel pretty good."
In 15 games this season, Bourn has hit .266 with one double, two triples, four RBIs, six runs and two stolen bases for the Indians.
Francona said placing Bourn on the 15-day DL on Tuesday was considered.
"We could've, but it doesn't sound like he needs that," Francona said. "We don't want to just force a guy to the DL. It's only been three days and he's only probably two away. You'd maybe be losing him for 10 days when you didn't need to. At the same time, we don't want to do something wrong for him, either."
Quote to note
"I don't care what anybody says, games right here count. We haven't been playing our best baseball, but I still think we're in the thick of things. There's no reason to panic over anything. We just have to continue to grind out games and pick each other up, and continue to be positive."
--Indians center fielder Michael Bourn
• Closer John Axford was not available on Tuesday due to having pitched in three straight games for the Tribe. In his last two outings, Axford allowed a combined four runs on three hits with three walks and two home runs in just 1 1/3 innings. Francona feels it is just a bump in the road for Axford, who has nine saves in 11 chances.
"It's easy when you're watching a game," Francona said, "and you're a fan or media, to be like, 'Why'd you get him?' He's our closer and, up until a couple days ago he [was on a roll]. ... When you start running from guys, as opposed to trying to get them back to where they need to be, that can be unsettling for a team."
• Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who headed into Tuesday's action with a .368 average through 20 games, has been taking some ground balls at first base for the past week or so. Chisenhall has also headed to the outfield at times to track down fly balls during batting practice. Francona said versatility is never a bad thing.
"He's a pretty good athlete," Francona said. "I've seen him before just running around in the outfield. I think he likes it. I think it's a good idea. When you've got a left-handed hitter that can do multiple things, it can only enhance your career. There's no downside."
• Entering Tuesday, Cleveland's rotation had gone 3-0 with a 1.28 ERA (six earned runs in 42 1/3 innings), .201 opponents' average and 50 strikeouts against nine walks in the past six starts at home. Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister combined to yield just one earned run in 22 innings with 27 strikeouts over the past three games.
• On Tuesday, the Indians named Double-A Akron right-hander Shawn Armstrong the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for April 28-May 4. During Akron's recent nine-game winning streak, the 23-year-old Armstrong spun 6 1/3 shutout innings with four saves. The righty had yielded just one earned run in 9 2/3 innings through 10 games (0.93 ERA) this season.