Indians notebook: Lofton does whatever it takes

Andy Call

Kenny Lofton disagrees strongly with the notion that old dogs — er, make that veteran players — can’t learn new tricks.

The 40-year-old Lofton has been primarily a center fielder and a leadoff hitter for most of his 17-year career. Since being traded to Cleveland by Texas on July 27, however, he has been asked to play left field and bat first, second and seventh.

“I’m used to doing it all now,” Lofton said.

Life has certainly changed for Lofton during his third tour of duty in Cleveland.

First, there was the move to left field because the Indians already had Grady Sizemore in center.

“Left field is still different,” Lofton said. “Will I ever get used to being in left field? No. I’m a center fielder, bottom line. It’s like somebody at second base trying to play shortstop. It’s a different position.”

Despite his unfamiliarity with new surroundings, Lofton has played well, Manager Eric Wedge said.

“Grady is the center fielder and still needs to take charge out there, but Kenny has done a good job in left,” Wedge said.

Hitting has not come as easily, but Lofton has a .274 average since joining the Indians. He stole second base Tuesday against Detroit, his first steal in 20 games since the trade.

Lofton batted seventh twice and second nine times during his first 11 games in Cleveland.

“I felt effective batting behind Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia (2005) and Rafael Furcal in Los Angeles (2006),” Lofton said. “Those two teams wanted me to hit second. Both of those guys were switch-hitters, so it was a perfect situation. I understand how to hit in the No. 2 spot. I do what’s needed for the team.

“If the guy in front of me gets on, I’ll do the No. 2 job. I watched Omar (Vizquel) for years in the No. 2 spot, so I know what to do. It wasn’t that unusual.”

Because the leadoff spot wasn’t that unusual for Lofton, Wedge didn’t hesitate to put him there when he decided to shake up the batting order Aug. 14. Lofton has batted first and Sizemore third during the last eight games against right-handed starters.

Wedge suggested Thursday that, if Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner return to form, Sizemore may return to the top of the order.

“I don’t have anything set in stone,” Wedge said. “We’ve been inconsistent as a team offensively and Grady has proven to be one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. He’s got tools very few guys have in that spot.”

Lofton continues to share time in left with Jason Michaels, who started against Detroit left-hander Nate Robertson on Thursday.

“I know I can play every day, against right-handers and left-handers,” Lofton said. “That’s not my call.”

SERVICEMAN’S SPECIAL 

All active and veteran military personnel are eligible for up to two free tickets for Monday’s home game against Minnesota. Military ID must be presented at the Jacobs Field box office or one of the Indians Team Shops.

MR. DEPENDABLE 

RHP Rafael Betancourt has allowed 10.3 percent of inherited runners to score (3 of 29), third in the American League.

FORGOTTEN MAN 

RHP Tom Mastny has made one appearance since Aug. 4.

ON THE FARM 

Triple-A Buffalo left-hander Jeremy Sowers allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings of a 7-6 victory Wednesday over Pawtucket. Sowers (4-5) dropped his season ERA to 3.83.

Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or andy.call@cantonrep.com.