The Jeff Manto watch is on.
The slugging infielder could be back with the Buffalo Bisons as early as Monday if he accepts the Cleveland Indians' minor-league assignment.
"We have not heard anything yet," Herd manager Jeff Datz said before Saturday's game against the Rochester Red Wings at Frontier Field. "We're still in a waiting situation."
Despite going 6 for 20 with two home runs for the Indians since his Aug. 2 call-up from Buffalo, Manto was designated for assignment Wednesday when Cleveland purchased Torey Lovullo's contract from the Herd. Manto has cleared waivers, and the Indians have outrighted him to Buffalo.
Manto has until Monday afternoon to decide whether he will accept the assignment or declare free agency. There is also speculation he may retire.
Mark Shapiro, Cleveland's director of minor-league operations, is in town for the series and said he hopes Manto will report to the Bisons.
"I know he feels somewhat hurt (about getting sent back)," Shapiro said. "It's our hope he can put that aside and make the best business decision for him. We'd love to have him back here (with the Bisons), rather than see him go to Triple-A with someone else."
Manto was sent back because Cleveland wanted a left-handed hitting second baseman. Although he has played second base in his career, the Indians consider Manto a corner infielder and opted to go with Lovullo.
Manto hit .314 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs for Buffalo this season. He has 39 homers and 106 RBIs for the Herd the last two years, and the team is 70-35 with him on the roster in that span.
Phil Hiatt's RBI double in the first inning Friday snapped an 0-for-11 skid during which the Buffalo first baseman had nine strikeouts.
Hiatt entered Saturday's game with 29 home runs, but has not connected since Aug. 12 at Syracuse. He has since surrendered the International League lead to Durham's Scott McClain (31).
The Syracuse SkyChiefs may have broken their 11-game losing streak Friday night with a 2-1 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but things are far from jovial down the Thruway at P&C Stadium.
Before the game, SkyChiefs manager Terry Bevington announced he was no longer talking to reporters from the Syracuse Post-Standard in response to a column that appeared in the paper earlier in the day.
The piece by columnist Bud Poliquin discussed many aspects of the losing streak, including Bevington's reaction to the collapse. A sample:
"The manager has ranted and he's been quiet," Poliquin wrote. "He's run his pitching instructor, Scott Breeden, out to coach first base. He's fiddled with the lineup. He's ordered all kinds of weird uniform combinations. Who knows? Terry, who may as yet not have changed his underwear through all of this, has probably bayed at the moon while tossing salt over his shoulder with crossed fingers."
Sparring with the media is nothing new to Bevington, who was at odds with Chicago writers for much of his three-year term as White Sox manager that ended last year.
The Red Wings' lineup took a major hit before the game when Baltimore called up slugger Willis Otanez and placed pitcher Scott Kamieniecki on the disabled list.
Otanez was batting .285 with 27 home runs and 100 RBIs for Rochester. He knocked in a run Friday with a first-inning single, becoming the first Red Wing to drive in 100 since 1973.
The Bisons-Red Wings series continues today at 2:15 (Radio 1520) with Buffalo ace Jason Jacome (12-2) pitching against Rochester's Terry Burrows.
The first 4,000 fans will receive Earl Weaver replica jerseys, similar to the one worn by Weaver when he was Rochester's manager in 1966 and 1967. Weaver will sign autographs from 1 to 2 p.m. in the stadium concourse.
Weaver, who was 163-125 in his two Rochester seasons, is one of 19 people who have come through Rochester and Baltimore en route to the Baseball Hall of Fame.