CLEVELAND -- Edwin Encarnacion has put the crutches down and picked up a bat. The Indians slugger officially returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Yankees for Game 5 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.
Encarnacion, who sprained his right ankle in the first inning of Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday night, went through running drills and took live batting practice during Tuesday's optional workout at Progressive Field. After passing those tests, Encarnacion returned to the cleanup spot as the designated hitter for the decisive Game 5 after sitting out Games 3 and 4 in New York.
"If he really can't hit, being out there in name doesn't help," Francona said prior to Game 5. "I watched him in the cage and I really came away thinking, 'Man, if I really wasn't looking for it, I wouldn't have known [he injured his ankle]', which is really uplifting. So, again, I don't think he's going to be at top speed by any means, but I don't see that getting in the way of his at-bats, either."
During the regular season, Encarnacion tallied 38 home runs and 107 RBIs in 157 games.
With Encarnacion back in the lineup, outfielder Michael Brantley returned to the bench, giving the Indians a left-handed bat to potentially use as a pinch-hitter. Francona gave veteran Austin Jackson (1.013 OPS against lefties) the start in left field with Yankees lefty CC Sabathia starting Game 5. Jackson slotted into the sixth spot, which moved Jay Bruce into the seventh slot.
"You try not to upset the apple cart. We've done things a certain way the whole year," Francona said of dropping Bruce lower in the order. "But against CC, I just wanted to make sure that coming through the middle there that guys get pitched to, especially [Carlos Santana in the fifth spot]. I thought that this was the best way to go about it."
Perez starts over Gomes Yan Gomes has been ace Corey Kluber's primary catcher over the past few seasons, including being behind the plate for 26 of the ace right-hander's starts during the regular season this year and again for Game 2 of this ALDS. For Game 5 against the Yankees, Francona went with catcher Roberto Perez as the starter with Kluber on the mound.
"That was the hardest decision of all," Francona said. "I talk to [bench coach Brad Mills] about everything. We just finally came to the conclusion that we were going to start 'Berto. And I don't know that there was a wrong choice. We just decided that we would start 'Berto and we told Gomer that he would probably have an influence in this game before it's over."
With Perez catching this season, Kluber had a 0.00 ERA with 29 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings.
• Francona spoke with longtime friend and former coach John Farrell after he was dismissed as the Red Sox's manager earlier on Wednesday. Said Francona: "He said he was at peace with it. And I think he's done some amazing things. He won a World Series there. I think he'll probably end up feeling like he's in a better place, because I think that place can age you a little bit sometimes. I saw what it was doing to him. He'll be fine. He's got too good a reputation. He's too good a guy. He'll be just fine. I think on a day like today, he knows he has a lot of people that care about him."
• Francona noted that third baseman Giovanny Urshela was feeling better on Wednesday after taking a line drive off his left leg in Game 4 on Monday night. Urshela got the nod at third for Game 5, and Francona noted that he did not consider moving Jason Kipnis to second from center or Jose Ramirez to third from second.
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.