Notes: Garko ramping up with glove
Experience, better footwork help first baseman make plays
CLEVELAND -- Ryan Garko laughs at those who wasted little time in formulating their opinions of his ability to play first base.
"What surprised me," Garko said, "is that people thought I wasn't going to get better."
If those folks knew better, they'd realize that Garko was going to play the corner over the winter in the Dominican Republic, he was going to man first in Spring Training and he would consistently put in extra work there during the season.
"He's obviously a hitter," Wedge said. "But he takes a lot of pride in what he does at first base."
That's been evident in Garko's .994 fielding percentage there this year, but more so in his ability to reliably make the difficult plays in which errors are wiped out of the picture. In the Tribe's first two games against Kansas City alone, he made several diving stops that Wedge described as "fantastic."
They are also plays Garko acknowledges he likely wouldn't have made a year ago.
"Those are plays I might not have made at even the beginning of this year," Garko said. "But my footwork's getting better and I really feel like I'm reacting to the ball faster. Because of all that work, I feel like I'm able to make those diving plays now."
And he's hitting again, going 19-for-54 (.352) with a pair of homers and eight RBIs over his last 16 games entering Sunday.
Yet it may be Garko's play on the other side that's most impressed.
"He's worked so hard to play a good first base," Wedge said. "And that's what we've seen him do. ... He's been great for us all year."
Whoa there: The play frustrated Wedge. It also reminded him just why he likes his club so much.
Sure, Casey Blake's whirling, wayward attempt to nail the lead Royals runner in Saturday's seventh inning might have been dangerously aggressive.
"But as a manager," Wedge said, "you'd rather be on that side of the spectrum than the other."
Here's what happened: With a runner at second, Blake charged a soft chopper and looked set to throw to first. But shortstop Jhonny Peralta, sprinting alongside the runner heading for third, unwisely called for Blake to throw to third.
The result wasn't pretty. Blake's twisting throw shot past the lunging Peralta, handing the Royals a free run.
"It was an aggressive play, but it was a pretty stupid play," Blake said. "I felt bad."
Goodbye: Garko, perhaps one of the game's classiest guys, sounded almost apologetic the day after his first big-league ejection.
"I respect all the umpires a lot," Garko said Sunday morning, "whether the call's right or wrong. Obviously, it's a tough game and you get emotional."
Garko was tossed by plate umpire Mark Carlson for arguing a check-swing third strike in the eighth -- from the dugout. That is, if you can even call it arguing. He was tossed for a phrase he shouted with his back to the umpire.
Wedge wasn't amused.
"He wasn't out there in front of everybody," Wedge said. "He did say something, but I thought they should have left it alone."
Choo progressing: Triple-A Buffalo outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, sidelined for the past several weeks with a strained elbow, will begin a throwing program later this week in Winter Haven, Fla.
If all goes to plan, the Tribe expects Choo to return to Buffalo early next month.
Quotable: "Somebody's going down. No, I'm just kidding. We don't want to get anyone hurt. We can get a little rowdy, but it's all playful." -- Outfielder Jason Michaels, on the Tribe's increasingly raucous postgame celebrations
Tribe tidbits: Recent attendance increases means more manpower is needed to run The Jake. So the Indians are holding a job fair Thursday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. ET at the Terrace Club. The complete list of positions available can be viewed here. ... The Tribe is 6-22 when scoring three runs or less this season.
On this date: In 1987, with the Indians 31-56 and 23 games out of first place, the Indians dismissed manager Pat Corrales. Bullpen coach Doc Edwards took over a club that entered the year with high expectations. Few will forget Sports Illustrated's baseball preview issue that spring, which saw Cory Snyder and Joe Carter gracing a cover headlined, "Indian Uprising: Believe it! Cleveland is the best team in the American League!"
Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo's Adam Miller gave up five runs over just 2 2/3 innings as the Bisons fell, 12-5, at Durham on Saturday night. ... Double-A Akron first baseman Chris Gimenez went 2-for-3 with a double and a homer and starter Scott Lewis allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings in a 3-2 loss to Altoona. ... First baseman Matthew Whitney and shortstop Joshua Rodriguez each homered in Class A Kinston's 8-4 thrashing of Salem. ... Class A Lake County starter Hector Rondon tossed seven innings of two-run ball as the Captains edged Hagerstown, 4-2.
On deck: The Tribe opens up a three-game set with the White Sox on Monday night at The Jake. Cliff Lee (5-5, 5.23 ERA) will be opposed by Sox left-hander John Danks (5-6, 4.62 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.