The Indians had reason to be optimistic coming into Spring Training this year following their first postseason berth since 2007 last season. But so far, things haven't gone according to plan in 2014, as they've started the season 19-24 after winning 92 games a season ago.
"Frustration won't make it better," Jason Giambi said Saturday. "Definitely, I'm just trying to keep guys' spirits up, trying to keep [saying], 'It's going to get better. It's going to get better.' It's believing that it's going to get better. I think that's the most important thing, especially in this game."
Cleveland's starter in the series finale with the Oakland A's on Sunday hopes things will get better not just for his team, but also for himself. Right-hander Justin Masterson has struggled so far this season after winning 14 games and posting a 3.45 ERA in 2013. This season, his ERA is 4.31 over nine starts.
"I just didn't mix it up as well," Masterson said of his last outing, a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays on May 13. "That was the biggest thing. We still had some balls down for the most part, but it was just a lot of sinkers. They made a good adjustment to stay with the ball. I just didn't combat the adjustment by mixing it up."
Masterson's counterpart Sunday, A's right-hander Jesse Chavez, is moving in the opposite direction early this season and will try to help Oakland complete the sweep.
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.44 ERA for the A's, who have won in seven of his eight starts. The key to his stellar start, Chavez said, is keeping things simple.
"If we keep the ball down, and we trust ourselves, we'll be all right," Chavez said of the Oakland starting rotation's approach. "That's as simple as we can get. It's tough to wrap your head around and think it's that simple, but it's how we approach it."
Oakland's starting rotation boasts a 2.92 ERA this season.
Athletics: Rodriguez feeling good, may be used again Sunday
Fernando Rodriguez said on Saturday that he feels good after making his first two appearances following Tommy John surgery on his elbow. In two relief outings since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento on May 9, the right-hander has tossed three scoreless innings, allowing a hit while walking one and striking out three.
"I feel pretty good today," Rodriguez said. "I thought I was going to be more sore or tired or even cranky when I woke up, but I guess my body, the more I throw, the more it reacts to the next day of actually being ready."
A's manager Bob Melvin said he's impressed with what he's seen, and may use Rodriguez on Sunday should the need arise.
"For whatever reason, it looks like he's got more plane to his pitches," Melvin said. "It's not like he's grown, but it seems like he's hitting the bottom of the zone. As tall as he is, the ball doesn't stay in the zone very long."
Indians: Help for a weary bullpen
The Indians' bullpen was taxed in the series opener against the A's on Friday, when Cleveland had to use four relievers after starter Zach McAllister lasted 1 1/3 innings in an 11-1 loss.
The Tribe promoted left-handed reliever T.J. House from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday. House, who will serve as the temporary long reliever, had a 2.40 ERA with 34 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 1.11 WHIP in 41 1/3 innings for Columbus. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Saturday's 6-2 loss to Oakland.
"He has the ability to sink the fastball," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "and his velocity has been up a tick or two, maybe even three, which means he's pitched with confidence. When you're still able to sink it with added velocity, that means he's not just throwing it. Because of that, he's having some success."
• Coco Crisp, John Jaso and Yoenis Cespedes have all had success against Masterson. Crisp is batting .364 lifetime against the right-hander, with two home runs and five RBIs in 11 career at-bats. In 16 career at-bats, Jaso is hitting .313 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs. And Cespedes is hitting .294 with a double, a homer and two RBIs in 17 career at-bats against Masterson.
• After going 4-for-12 Saturday, right-handed A's batters are hitting .288 against right-handed pitching this season.
• With three errors Saturday, the Indians added to their Major League-leading total and now have 43 on the season.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.