CLEVELAND -- Only one Indians starter totes an ERA better than 4.00.
It isn't Justin Masterson, last season's workhorse. It isn't Ubaldo Jimenez, who the Tribe acquired last July for the organization's top two pitching prospects.
It's Zach McAllister, who is 4-1 with a 3.17 ERA in eight starts for Cleveland this season and has been the club's most consistent hurler of late.
This isn't McAllister's first rodeo with the Indians. He made four spot starts with the club last summer and filled in for four outings in May while Josh Tomlin was on the disabled list. In his current tour of duty, he has made four starts, posting a 3-0 record and 2.31 ERA, while tallying 24 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old is focused on staying with the big league club this time around.
"If I do my job and pitch well, then I think that will happen," McAllister said. "I try not to think about that. I just want to go out and pitch well."
For the last few weeks, McAllister has anchored an up-and-down starting rotation. Just as it appeared as though Masterson and Jimenez were back on track, both right-handers were roughed up during Cleveland's four-game split in Tampa Bay this week. Derek Lowe and Tomlin haven't exactly been models of consistency, either. Lowe has a 7.16 ERA over his last nine outings and Tomlin has a 6.40 ERA over his last six starts.
So, while the rest of the rotation searches for answers as the Indians hang around in the American League playoff race, the Indians will continue to hand McAllister the ball every five days.
"The pressure is fun," McAllister said. "It's fun to be in the race and be in contention."
Allen throws scoreless frame in debut
CLEVELAND -- It seems like just yesterday that Cody Allen was pitching for Class A Carolina.
In reality, it was three months ago. Still, the right-hander completed his speedy ascent to the big leagues on Friday when the Indians called up Allen from Triple-A Columbus, a mere 13 months after the organization selected him in the 23rd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"It's always a good feeling when you're going up," said Allen, who posted a 2.27 ERA in 24 appearances for the Clippers. "You want to keep moving up. The ultimate goal is, obviously, to play here and play here for a while. It's been a little bit surprising. If you would've told me two years ago that I would be here, then I probably wouldn't believe you."
Allen made his Major League debut on Friday night in relief of Tribe starter Derek Lowe, who made an early exit. Allen pitched a scoreless fourth inning, issuing a pair of walks and recording one strikeout.
To create roster space for Allen, the Indians optioned left-hander Scott Barnes to Columbus. Barnes compiled an 8.10 ERA in seven appearances for Cleveland this season.
Allen opened the season with Carolina. After two outings spanning four scoreless innings, he was promoted to Double-A Akron. He didn't stay there long, either, as he headed to Columbus after allowing one run in 7 2/3 innings for the Aeros.
In all, the 23-year-old has compiled a 1.87 ERA in 31 appearances out of the bullpen this season. The Indians like his propensity to miss bats. Allen is averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings and has limited opposing hitters to a .166 batting average (25-for-151). While with Columbus, he held left-handed hitters to a .133 average.
"He's a guy that attacks the strike zone with a power arm and he has a good breaking ball," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Allen is the second player from the 2011 Draft class to reach the Major Leagues along with D-backs right-hander Trevor Bauer, who was the third overall selection in the first round. Allen said there is no secret recipe for his immediate success.
"It's baseball. It's 60 feet, six inches," Allen said. "Obviously, the players are better and they have advanced scouting reports and things like that. But you still have to make good pitches, you still have to get outs and you still have to perform."
Left-hander Perez could join bullpen next week
CLEVELAND -- Rafael Perez is clearing his final hurdles before he returns to the Indians.
The southpaw, who hasn't pitched since April 25 due to a left lat strain, could rejoin the Tribe's bullpen as early as next week. Perez threw a bullpen session on Friday. Before he returns, the Indians want him to either pitch on consecutive days or toss more than one inning in an effort to check his endurance.
"If he does it back to back, it'll be Monday and Tuesday," manager Manny Acta said. "If we change our mind and decide to see him first do an inning-plus, then we'll pick a day."
Before landing on the disabled list in late April, Perez compiled a 3.52 ERA in eight appearances. The Indians' other left-handed options out of the bullpen have struggled during Perez's absence. Tony Sipp has a 5.70 ERA in 37 outings. Nick Hagadone posted a 6.39 ERA in 27 games before sustaining a self-inflicted and potentially season-ending left hand injury. Rookie Scott Barnes racked up an 8.10 ERA in seven appearances before being optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Friday.
• The flag beyond the center-field wall at Progressive Field was at half mast on Friday in wake of the shooting in Colorado that claimed 12 lives.
• Center fielder Michael Brantley is third in the AL with a .408 batting average in July. His 1.243 OPS this month ranks second in the league.
• Just how close are the division and Wild Card races in the AL? Despite being just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card, the Indians entered Friday's action with the 10th-best record in the league.