Notes: Shoppach swinging hot bat
Backup catcher is getting it done every fifth day
CLEVELAND -- When Kelly Shoppach got a hit last year in Boston, the Fenway faithful noticed.
"There were some cheers," Shoppach said with a laugh. "Finally, the kid gets a hit."
Shoppach, you see, was 0-for-15 in his brief time with the Red Sox after spending four seasons in their farm system.
It's different these days. When Shoppach went 4-for-5 with a homer and three runs scored on Thursday in Beantown, it could have been expected.
For Shoppach has been the Tribe's hottest hitter. That is, when he gets the chance. Starting every fifth day in his de facto role as Paul Byrd's personal catcher, Shoppach is hitting .373 with a pair of homers and eight RBIs in 51 at-bats. And he has 10 hits over his last 16 at-bats.
"He's been playing good for us for quite a while now," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's starting to get a better idea of what he needs to do to be successful up here."
Shoppach simply credits "getting some good pitches to hit" for his recent success. But come on, even Shoppach acknowledges that "it's not easy" playing every fifth day.
Last season, veteran reserves Aaron Boone, Todd Hollandsworth and Ramon Vazquez helped show him how to handle the backup role and relieve the pressure to perform, which backups inevitably feel during their spot starts.
But he laughs at the idea that knowing his start dates make life any more comfortable.
"It doesn't make it any easier," Shoppach said. "This game is hard as heck. I'm always prepared.
"I'm not a guy that gets caught by surprise. I'll put my time in and my work in, so when I'm in the game, I'm educated enough."
Gutierrez recalled; Koplove sent down: Franklin Gutierrez is returning to Cleveland. But this time around, fans might take some notice.
In fact, after getting just five at-bats during a two-week stint with the Tribe earlier this month, the 24-year-old outfielder will likely start in right field on Friday night. And Wedge said more starts are on the way.
The Indians are looking to bring up the extra outfielder, most likely to offer right fielder Trot Nixon an occasional break. The options ultimately came down to Gutierrez and Ben Francisco.
But while the two had similarly impressive numbers -- Gutierrez was hitting .341 with 29 runs scored and Francisco was batting .349 with 27 RBIs -- the choice likely came down to Gutierrez's defense and his big league experience.
"You can't go wrong either way," Wedge said. "We felt strong about both of those guys. It's never easy."
To clear room for Gutierrez, the Tribe optioned reliever Mike Koplove to Triple-A Buffalo. In his week with the Indians, Koplove gave up two runs over four innings.
"I felt Koplove did a pretty good job up there," Wedge said. "He'll definitely be in consideration again this season."
Here's the question: Who hit the last grand slam at Cleveland Stadium? Hint: It was an Indian.
Goodyear welcoming Tribe: The Indians' planned Spring Training move to Arizona keeps moving forward.
Goodyear's City Council approved several critical measures Wednesday to clear the way for the building and financing of the Tribe's new facility and a surrounding "ballpark village."
The complex, slated to open in February 2009, is expected to cost $75 million and will feature a 10,000 seat park, a 38,000 square-foot clubhouse and eight practice fields.
Tribe tidbits: The Indians are expecting their biggest crowds of the season this weekend. Some 27,000 advanced tickets were sold for Thursday's opener with the Tigers and nearly 100,000 tickets have been snatched up for this weekend. ... All-Star voting won't be the only ballots cast this summer at The Jake. From May 31 through July 2, fans will have the chance to sample and select the official hot dog at Jacobs Field. The choices include a traditional all-beef dog, a Polish-style smoked sausage and a "red hot" dog.
And the answer is: On July 20, 1993, against Oakland, Carlos Baerga had the stadium's final slam against Joe Boever.
Down on the farm: A double and a three-run homer by Andy Marte and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo's three-hit, three-steal night led Triple-A Buffalo (29-20) past Indianapolis, 11-6, Wednesday. ... Double-A Akron's Wyatt Torregas and Argenis Reyes each drove in a pair of runs in the Aeros' 6-4 win over Altoona Wednesday night in central Pennsylvania. ... Jared Goedert has finally revealed a human side since being promoted to High Class A Kinston Monday. The 22-year-old third baseman, whose 16 homers and 51 RBIs at Lake County were second-best in the Minors, is 0-for-8 with a pair of strikeouts in his new Carolina digs.
On deck: With the Cavaliers off, the Indians have the town to themselves on Friday night as they continue their four-game set with the Tigers. Fausto Carmona (6-1, 2.89 ERA) will be opposed by Tigers left-hander Mike Maroth (3-2, 5.04 ERA).
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.