DETROIT -- When Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez heard Kelly Shoppach, his former teammate, signed a Minor League contract with the Indians on Friday, his eyes lit up and he had a wide smile on his face.
Shoppach was promoted to the Majors when rosters expanded Sunday and will be the third catcher for the Tribe. His role gives the team more flexibility to pinch-run for Yan Gomes or Carlos Santana late in games.
"Don't get fooled, though, I think he can do better than a third catcher," Martinez said. "He's got a lot of pop and he can really drive the ball. He can help them down the road."
However, anything Shoppach provides with his bat is just an added bonus. The Indians are bringing him back for his abilities behind the plate.
"If we get into the eighth or ninth, the last thing you want to do is bring in a catcher without any experience to catch maybe [closer Chris] Perez with the game on the line," manager Terry Francona said. "That's not fair to a young catcher. So Shoppach is a veteran guy that certainly can handle that.
"He can still do it. We wouldn't have gone and got him if we didn't think he could."
Shoppach returns to the Indians after a four-year stint with the club from 2006-09. He hit 21 home runs in '08, but hasn't hit more than 12 in a season since, though he's had limited playing time.
Shoppach hit .196 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 35 games with the Mariners this season before he was released on June 20. He later signed with the Nationals and Pirates, but wasn't promoted to the Majors with either club.
"He's a really smart guy behind the plate," Martinez said. "He's going to help them out a lot."
Rzepczynski finds form in second chance with Tribe
DETROIT -- While the Indians hope their trade for Jason Kubel can provide a boost to their bats, their Deadline deal for Marc Rzepczynski has already paid dividends for the bullpen.
Rzepczynski has allowed six hits and one unearned run in his first 11 2/3 innings since joining the Indians. He's inherited 11 runners, and only three have scored.
"He's been terrific," manager Terry Francona said. "He's come in and he's thrown strikes. He's kept the ball down. He's got good movement."
Rzepczynski struggled this season with the Cardinals and was demoted to their Triple-A affiliate at the end of April.
"I was able to work on more stuff down there," Rzepczynski said. "When you're in the big leagues, you can't work on stuff. I was going multiple innings, so I was able to throw my changeup, throw my breaking ball, and work out of my own jams, too."
Rzepczynski entered Friday's game at Comerica Park in the fourth inning with two runners on and two out against Prince Fielder. He hit Fielder with a pitch to load the bases, but was able to escape the jam by getting Victor Martinez to ground out to end the inning.
"I've had better execution with my pitches and sometimes luck," Rzepczynski said. "Sometimes balls that get hit at people are sometimes hits or the other way around. I think in St. Louis I wasn't executing my pitches, and the balls that were in play were hits. I think it's a combination of just throwing the ball where I should throw it and more luck than anything else."
Rzepczynski was traded from the Blue Jays to the Cardinals during the 2011 season and ended up being a major part of St. Louis' bullpen on its way to a World Series title. Rzepczynski won't be a free agent for another two seasons and hopes the lessons he learned at Triple-A Memphis this year will help him remain a fixture in the Tribe's bullpen.
"You're never happy to get sent down," Rzepczynski said. "But I definitely took it as I need to work on stuff. I got to the ballpark every day thinking, 'What could I work on?' When I went out there, for the most part, I started to throw strikes and tried to throw stuff where I know can, and get back to where I should be."
Speedy Ramirez becomes fourth youngest big leaguer
DETROIT -- Jose Ramirez has impressed people at every level he's played at, whether it was in the Minor Leagues, winter ball or Spring Training. He will finally get a chance to showcase his talent with the Indians after being called up Sunday.
Ramirez hit .272 with 25 extra-base hits and 38 RBIs in 113 games at Double-A Akron this season. He led the Eastern League with 38 stolen bases in 54 attempts and was fourth in the league with 78 runs scored. He also drew 39 walks compared to just 41 strikeouts.
Although he is the fourth youngest player in the Major Leagues at 20 years old, the Indians plan to use him in a variety of roles throughout September.
"That's why he's here," manager Terry Francona said. "We wouldn't call a guy up to not play him. That's the reason we called him up. We think he probably has exceeded his age. Are you going to have to teach on the job? Of course, but he has kind of impressed everybody along the way."
Ramirez had a .312 batting average for Toros del Este this offseason, which ranked third in the Dominican Winter League. The only two players ahead of him were Brewers All-Star Jean Segura, and MLB.com's second-ranked prospect, Oscar Taveras. Ramirez also played two games with the Indians in Spring Training, going 4-for-9 with a double and three RBIs.
"The way he handled himself [in Spring Training], his at-bats were always quality," Francona said. "Just the way he carried himself on the field, the game didn't look like it was going too fast. There are a lot of things to admire about a young kid like that."
Ramirez stole home on Aug. 18 against the Phillies' Double-A affiliate when he noticed their pitcher looked down as he got set in the stretch. Ramirez said he likes to play fast with a lot of energy, trying to emulate his favorite player, Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes.
For a player that was able to skip Class A Advanced Carolina at the beginning of the year, Ramirez has made quite the jump, though he already had a hiccup.
Ramirez forgot to bring his bag after being promoted, and the clubhouse managers had to find cleats for him to use Sunday. He will be wearing a pair of size 10 New Balance cleats, which is one size too big.
"I felt like this season went well, because I played hard and never quit," Ramirez said through translator Luis Ortiz, the Indians lower-level hitting coordinator. "Especially since I didn't start this season very well, I got better and I'm very surprised."
Francona remains motivated despite road woes
DETROIT -- The Indians have stumbled on their six-game road trip, losing the first five games. They enter Sunday's finale against the Tigers 8 1/2 games back in the American League Central and 4 1/2 games behind for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"We lost three close ones in Atlanta," manager Terry Francona said. "We've had a tough road trip as far as results go. There's no getting around that. We haven't put ourselves in a very good position for where we are trying to get. But until somebody tells you you're out of it, you go 100 mph and keep playing."
The Cardinals were 8 1/2 games back for the National League Wild Card in 2011 before they stormed back on their way to a World Series title. While the Indians don't have as much ground to make up, those wild September finishes help provide a road to follow.
"Do we have to do something special? Yeah maybe," Francona said. "There's always a special team. You want it to be you. It's not easy. It's not supposed to be, but you do the best you can."
While Cleveland fans have seen struggles at the end of the season before, this is a team that has also battled back from losing streaks all season to remain in the playoff race.
"It's a long year, you're going to have frustrations," Francona said. "There's no way around that. That's the way the game is."
• Corey Kluber will pitch a simulated game Monday in Cleveland, and if all goes well, he may be back in the Indians' rotation by the end of the week. Kluber said his injured right middle finger felt good after throwing all of his pitches -- including his curveball -- in a Friday bullpen session.
• The Indians shipped Matt Langwell to the D-backs as the player to be named in their trade for outfielder Jason Kubel. Langwell has bounced between Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland this season, allowing three runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings across five appearances for the Tribe.
At Columbus, Langwell went 3-4 with a 2.24 ERA in 42 appearances, striking out 52 in 60 1/3 innings.
• The Indians designated infielder Juan Diaz and outfielder Tim Fedroff for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Shoppach and Ramirez.
Quote to note
"As far as our team goes, the best way to go about your business, the only way to concern yourself, is about today. When somebody says you need to win nine out of 10, OK, well no [kidding]. The best way to do that is win today. You do that enough and things add up."
-- Francona, on the Indians trying to focus on each game during this last month.
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.