Fourteen final thoughts for the 14 hitters Justin Masterson has struck out this spring as the Indians took split squad games at Cubs Park and at Scottsdale Stadium.
1. It may be an anxious night for Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona after center fielder Michael Bourn was lifted in the second inning against the Giants with what the team called “mild left hamstring tightness.”
2. A hamstring injury would be a concern for any regular, but especially with Bourn playing a position where he covers a lot of ground. He’s also the team’s primary base-stealing threat. And he underwent surgery on the same hamstring on Oct. 15.
3. Bourn was signed to a four-year, $48 million contract on Feb. 15, 2013. The Indians may not have felt they got a huge return for their investment last season. Playing his first year in the American League after 3,015 games in the National League with the Phillies, Astros and Braves, Bourn hit .263, his lowest average since 2008 (.229 with the Astros). His steals decreased from 42 to 23 and his steal attempts were down from 55 to 35.
4. Bourn has won two Glove Gloves and twice made the National League All-Star team. He leads the majors in steals from 2008-13 with 280. He may have needed time to adjust to a new league and a new clubhouse. But this is a season when Bourn needs to return to form. The Indians are surely cognizant of the fact that Bourn’s salary jumps from $7 million in 2013 to $13.5 million in 2014, according to baseballreference.com.
5. Bourn showed how valuable he can be in the last 15 games last season (as the Tribe won 10 of those). He hit .300 with three doubles, four triples, one home run and 10 RBI. (That doesn't count the wild card playoff.) That’s the Bourn the Indians need for Opening Day March 31 at Oakland.
6. Yes, spring means nothing, but even right-hander Justin Masterson is surprised how well he’s doing. In 13 innings, he hasn’t allowed a run. He’s given up only six hits. He’s hit more batters (three) than he’s walked (two). He’s struck out 14.
7. Masterson’s agent is still talking to the Indians on a contract extension. In the NFL players often improve in a contract year. Is this a “contract spring?” Probably not, but the coincidence is stunning.
8. Masterson’s biggest issue with his five innings of work against the Cubs came in the second, when he hit Ryan Roberts and threw a couple high and inside to Chris Valaika before striking him out.
9. “I had about three or four pitches there I started rotating a little too much,” Masterson said. “Hit Roberts in the back, a couple high and tight to the next batter. I was able to work through that. (I had) decent command, at times effectively wild in the zone, but progressing.”
10. Francona was pleased. “He had good movement on his two-seamer, threw some good breaking balls. He’s building,” Francona said. “As he continues to go out there you see a little bit more power to the fastball. He’s got three more starts and he’ll be ready to go.”
11. While some may have been less than enthused about starting a split squad game, it didn’t bother Masterson. In fact, he saw some plusses. “I don’t know some of these guys. That kind of challenges you in your brain to be, ‘OK, I’ve got to (go) with my strength, make the adjustment off of how they swing, off what they do to any given pitch,’ he said. “You don’t have any scouting reports, that challenges you quite a bit.”
12. From the gone but not forgotten department: When Masterson was interviewed in the hallway after his outing, he made a reference to former Indians catcher Lou Marson. “How’d I look?” he said to a few media members. “I’m just kidding. That’s what Lou Marson used to say. ‘How do you feel, Lou?’ ‘How do I look?’” Masterson was obviously in good spirits.
13. Francona also saw positives from third baseman Carlos Santana and catcher Yan Gomes. Santana went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored. “He hit four balls about as good as you can hit ‘em,” Francona said. Santana also hit a deep fly ball and a liner, both to right field. As for Gomes, Francona said he “ran the game.” “Every inning you saw him meet the pitcher,” Francona said. “(Gomes) knows that if we’re winning, even in spring training, his job is to get the pitcher through the game. That’s a nice feeling.”
14. The game in Mesa was a sellout, drawing 14,918. A friend paid $35 for an $8 lawn ticket and said no one was haggling with the scalpers.