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Indians beat 4/23

April 23, 2011

Hannahan embracing his return home

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — If anyone was more disappointed about Friday’s rainout than Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan, they were probably one of the hundreds of family and friends that came to watch him play.Hannahan, a 31-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native, is playing in the Twin Cities this weekend for just the second time since he was drafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2001. With more than 100 friends and family expected for each game, Hannahan ran into a little more trouble getting tickets at Target Field than at the Twins’ old ballpark, the Metrodome.”Any chance I get to come home and play in front of my family and friends and sleep in my own bed, it’s nice,” Hannahan said. “From growing up here and going to high school and college here, a lot of coaches, friends and relatives are coming out.”

Hannahan last faced the Twins in 2009 in Oakland. His last games at the Metrodome came on Aug. 18-19, 2008, when Hannahan went 2-for-8 with a double and an RBI in the series.

While they didn’t get to play Friday, Hannahan made sure his teammates got a taste of the Twin Cities in the clubhouse. A few hours before the game’s scheduled start, Hannahan had “Juicy Lucy” cheeseburgers brought in from Shamrock’s in St. Paul, a Twin Cities specialty.

While others claim to have invented the burger with cheese inside the patty rather than on top, Hannahan says Shamrock’s makes them the best, though he may be a little biased.

“I got the boys locked in on it,” Hannahan said. “I usually do it anytime I come in here. I tell these guys it’s the best Juicy Lucy they’ll ever taste, so I always bring in 30 of them.

“Mikey Runyon and Teddy Casper, who I graduated with at Cretin, they own it. They always hook me up and bring it in for the boys.”

As Hannahan referenced, he attended high school at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, which also is the alma mater of Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

While Hannahan’s teammates, especially the pitching staff, may be glad to see Mauer out of the lineup this weekend, it’s a bit disappointing for Hannahan that he won’t get to see a familiar face behind the plate when he goes to bat.

“We never played together, but I graduated with Billy, his middle brother, and then Jake was a year older than me, so I played with those guys growing up,” Hannahan said. “I haven’t talked to Joe since I’ve been home, but we text throughout the year and I get to see him in the offseason.

“Hopefully he can heal up. I heard he’s pretty banged up, but Joey’s a tough guy. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back out on the field soon.”

Acta expects Central foes to make a run

MINNEAPOLIS — By the end of the season, the first-place Indians and last-place Twins very well could switch places in the American League Central standings.

At the very least, Indians manager Manny Acta expects the Twins — and the White Sox and Tigers — to figure things out and make a run at some point.

“Absolutely,” Acta said. “Those teams, they’ve done it in the past. Some of them made additions in the offseason and it’s still very early. A lot of the guys that are struggling right now are not going to struggle the whole year, and vice versa.”

Still, it would seem that the Indians have an opportunity this weekend at Target Field to take advantage of a Twins squad that isn’t playing up to its potential early on in the season.

Acta doesn’t necessarily see it that way, but he likes the way his team is playing so far. In order to stay at the top, he knows they’ll have to continue to play consistently at the same level, while the young players on the team continue to improve.

“You can’t compare yourself to others, you’ve just got to continue to get better yourself and see where that takes you,” Acta said.

One thing Acta does not want to discuss is what constitutes a “good start.” The way he sees it, with how long the baseball season is, if the Indians played poorly over the next few weeks or month, that could become a “bad start” to the season.

What does matter is where the Indians are in the standings at the end of the season.

“It doesn’t make any sense if we go out next month and have the same type of month the other way around that we’re having right now,” Acta said.

“To me, it’s playing consistent baseball throughout the year. It’s a long season. Would you want to go over and ask the Rockies if they would rather have a good April in 2007 and not win the 21 out of 22 that they won to go to the World Series? You think they would trade that? The World Series for starting 7-0 in April and then not making the playoffs?”

Acta very impressed with Gordon’s defense

MINNEAPOLIS — After their 3-2 loss on Thursday to the Royals, defense was a topic of discussion for the Indians. In particular, the notable difference in the outcomes of the throws by Royals center fielder Melky Cabrera and Indians left fielder Michael Brantley.

Whereas Cabrera managed an excellent throw to retire Indians catcher Carlos Santana at the plate to save a run, Brantley had trouble getting a grip on the wet ball, allowing Mitch Maier to score and tie the game.

Had it not been for the defense of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, however, the Indians may have come away with a sweep, rather than splitting the series in Kansas City.

In the Indians’ 5-4 loss Tuesday, Gordon had a diving grab in the ninth to save a run and preserve the Royals’ one-run victory. Thursday night, Gordon had another defensive gem in left field and also made a diving grab at first base for an inning-ending double play in the ninth, to save at least one more run.

“He might have saved more than two runs [Thursday night],” Acta said. “He not only saved runs there, he turned that into an out. He played tremendous defense in that series.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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