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Gutierrez providing solid plate performance

Life was moving along pretty well in spring training for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. He was hitting .346 with the Indians and had a shot at making the big league club's Opening Day roster.

Then he strained his left hamstring running out a grounder on March 22 and began the year on major league rehabilitation.

But since being optioned to the Buffalo Bisons on April 13, Gutierrez has made the most of his playing time.

In Sunday's 6-1 loss to Pawtucket at Dunn Tire Park, Gutierrez accounted for two of the team's four hits and drove in the Herd's only run.

"He's been solid. He's just doing a really nice job," Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo said. "He's balanced. His approach is solid. He's a catalyst. He hits the top of the lineup for a reason. He gets on base and when he's on base we're going to score some runs."

The 2-for-4 performance extended his hitting streak to six games with a .428 batting average in that span.

In the Herd's four-game series at Toledo, Gutierrez had multiple hits in all four games, going 9 for 18 with seven runs scored, two doubles, a home run and two RBIs.

"Right now I've been feeling good," Gutierrez said. "I'm taking good swings right now. I'm starting to concentrate a bit more and I'm just doing my routine every day. [The hamstring] is feeling good. Sometimes I feel sore but it's nothing that won't let me play.

"It's tough when that happened because then when you start [playing again] it's like the first day to you. I think the first two games or three games I started real slow. But right now I feel nice and I think if I play every day I'm going to be very good."

Gutierrez has spent time in Buffalo each of the last three seasons, making his major league debut with Cleveland in 2005.

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Also hoping to rehab to get back to Cleveland is infielder Joe Inglett. Inglett was on track to challenge for a position with the Indians in spring training when after four games he developed soreness in both legs. He is nursing injuries to both of his quadriceps muscles and his left hamstring.

Inglett was optioned to Buffalo on April 18 and Lovullo said he is on a return-to-play program mandated by the Cleveland organization. In Sunday's game, Inglett played second base and went 0 for 4.

In 2006, Inglett played 40 games for the Bisons, hitting .299. In 64 games with Cleveland, he hit .284 with 21 RBIs.

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The Bisons still have an open spot on their roster after relief pitcher Jason Beverlin announced his retirement on Saturday. Lovullo does not know yet when that spot will be filled.

"To tell you the truth, I think we're waiting out when [Cleveland] is going to activate [starting pitcher Cliff Lee]," Lovullo said. "And then once they activate Cliff, inevitably we'll get a pitcher from the big leagues. So I think we're just holding that spot open for the moment."

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The series concludes tonight (6:05, Radio 1230 AM) with right-hander Jeff Harris (1-0, 3.27 ERA) scheduled to start for Buffalo against lefty Kason Gabbard (2-1, 4.41).

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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