CLEVELAND -- Edwin Encarnacion headed out to left field at Progressive Field on Tuesday afternoon and went through a series of running drills under the watchful eyes of the Indians' medical staff. Considering how bad Encarnacion's right ankle injury initially looked, the slugger's progress in the past few days seems remarkable.
During the Tribe's optional workout, Indians manager Terry Francona indicated that Encarnacion should be ready to return to the lineup tonight against the Yankees for Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. Francona added that he is weighing multiple lineup scenarios, but Encarnacion will likely be back as the designated hitter.
"He's been hitting off the machine already," Francona said. "He'll do some running, and we'll kind of gauge where he is. I think he'll be OK."
Encarnacion's bat was missed in Games 3 and 4, when Cleveland scored a combined three runs in the two losses to the Yankees in New York. In all four games of this ALDS, the Indians' lineup has hit a combined .173 with a .590 OPS, with a .196 average with runners on (51 at-bats). Cleveland's offense has 25 strikeouts in the two losses, and it has struck out in 29.9 percent of its 154 plate appearances.
The top of the lineup -- Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez -- has gone cold, batting a collective .143 in 49 at-bats through the first four games. Complicating matters further, Encarnacion's replacement at DH, Michael Brantley, has gone 1-for-11 with four strikeouts. Brantley, who missed most of August and September with a right ankle injury, made the ALDS roster as a pinch-hitter, but he was pressed into duty when Encarnacion was injured early in Game 2 on Friday.
With the left-handed CC Sabathia scheduled to start in Game 5, Brantley might return to pinch-hitting duties.
"Some of it may depend on who's available," Francona said. "Sabathia's been tough on him historically anyway. We may be better off having him on the bench. I haven't quite worked through that yet. Obviously, a lot of that hinges on Edwin."
Encarnacion, who had a walking boot and crutches in New York over the past few days after rolling his right ankle in the first inning of Game 2, also took live swings against lefty Ryan Merritt during Tuesday's workout. Under the win-or-go-home circumstances in Game 5, Cleveland can run the risk of starting Encarnacion at DH, knowing that Brantley can easily take over if the slugger's ankle injury flares up.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows all too well how Encarnacion's presence can alter the look of a lineup. Before Encarnacion's standout season (38 home runs, 107 RBIs and an .881 OPS) this year with the Indians, the Yanks faced the slugger as part of the Blue Jays' order for the past several seasons.
"Obviously, he changes it,' Girardi said on Tuesday. "He's dangerous. We know how dangerous he is. You can look at Edwin, he's probably one of the best RBI guys in our league for the last three or four years. That's who he is. He knows how to drive in runs. He changes the lineup."
There are other factors under consideration as Francona mulls his Game 5 lineup, too.
Third baseman Giovanny Urshela took a 103-mph liner off the bat of Starlin Castro off his left shin in the second inning of Cleveland's 7-3 loss on Monday night. Francona noted that Urshela was still sore on Tuesday and that he would be monitored over the next 24 hours. If Urshela is unable to play, Cleveland has a few options. Center fielder Kipnis could move back to second base, with Ramirez sliding to third from second. Utility man Erik Gonzalez can also play third.
If the Indians wanted to add Yandy Diaz to the roster to play third, the club would need to place Urshela on the disabled list. That move would make Urshela ineligible for the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World, if Cleveland were to advance.
"We've got a couple things going," Francona reiterated. "One, we're certainly going to check on Edwin. We also need to check on Gio. He showed up a little more sore [on Tuesday]. That ball kind of attacked him last night. So we'll make a run through the entire group just to make sure we're OK.
"I've got about four lineups down there, just because there's a lot of either/ors. We'll figure it out."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.