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Carlos Carrasco, Indians leave Arizona on a high note with 3-1 win against Reds

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 31, 2016

Carlos Carrasco finished his spring with a quality start and the Indians topped the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 at Goodyear Ballpark Thursday afternoon.

Carrasco tossed 6 2/3 innings, gave up one run on five hits and struck out six. He finishes Cactus League play with an ERA of 3.28.

“We let him get a little more stretched out than probably the other guys this last start because he had been one start behind, but he’s good to go,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Everybody’s last start was really pretty good. That’s what you want. Everybody’s ready to go.”

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Indians LF Michael Brantley to resume hitting on Friday

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 30, 2016

Indians left fielder Michael Brantley has been resting his shoulder the last few days but will resume activities on Friday, according to the team.

Brantley, who had offseason shoulder surgery, has remained ahead of schedule from his original timetable. As he progressed faster than expected, it seemed as though an Opening Day return wasn’t likely but not out of the question, either. That was until he appeared in two games and experienced soreness.

Brantley was been shut down for precautionary reasons since that time but will resume hitting on Friday.

“[He’ll get] a couple of days of cage hitting and then he’ll be re-evaluated from there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s doing pretty well, but that’s the idea.”

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Corey Kluber strong in final outing of spring; Indians top Dodgers 4-3

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 30, 2016

Indians ace Corey Kluber continued his strong spring, allowing one run in 4 1/3 innings pitched and striking out six in a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.
It was his final start of spring, in which he’ll finish with a 2.19 ERA.

“Good. I think it was a good last one for me,” Kluber said of his outing. “I think I did a good job of keeping the ball down. That was kind of my goal coming into today. I don’t think I did a very good job of that last time out so it was nice to be able to make that adjustment.”

Cody Allen threw as well, allowing a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning. “He’s still trying to get that last bit of comfort in his delivery,” Francona said.

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Indians moving Trevor Bauer to the bullpen; Cody Anderson No. 4 starter, Josh Tomlin No. 5

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 30, 2016

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer was relegated to the bullpen toward the end of last year, and that’s where he’ll be beginning the 2016 season as well.

The Indians announced on Wednesday that they will be moving Bauer, an assumed starting pitcher this spring, to the bullpen and slotting Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin into the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the starting rotation, respectively, to start the season.

The moves effectively finalize the Opening Day 25-man roster. Bauer will be the eighth man in the bullpen and the team will carry four outfielders to start the year with Jose Ramirez acting as a utility fifth outfielder if needed.

Moving Bauer to the bullpen, if even for only a few weeks until outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall returns from the disabled list (he’s expected to be placed on the DL this weekend), is quite the move for a pitcher who still has a wealth of potential but one who has had some ups and downs in the major leagues and one who has his own way of seeing the game. The Indians liked the progress Anderson and Tomlin made at the tail end of last season, which each has continued this spring.

“To start the season, this is the way we felt was best for the team,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “I think building on the success that Josh and Cody had in the second half of last season, what they were able to carry forward in the offseason this spring, kind of led us down this path. It was a really difficult decision but the way we look at it, we’re in a pretty good spot to have six starters we feel so good about.”

Bauer has pitched well this spring, by his own admission caring mostly about velocity and holding a 2.25 ERA while striking out 19 batters in 20 innings pitched. But, Tomlin has improved in the second half of the spring—he threw his best outing on Tuesday and now has all of his pitches working—and Anderson has seen an uptick in velocity to build off of a good rookie season in 2015.

Bauer declined to make himself available to the media.

Indians manager Terry Francona said that sending Bauer to the bullpen is not an indictment on him.

“I don’t see anybody down there not being used in a meaningful role,” Francona said. “Trevor gets left-handers out, he has an arm that’s very resilient. Guys sort of morph into roles as the season progresses. But, he’s not going down there to sit.”

It looked like for much of the spring—and was assumed by most outside of the organization—that Bauer would be the No. 4 starting pitcher behind Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. It become apparent that the Indians wouldn’t explicitly say Bauer would start the season in the rotation, even into late March. And, since Anderson has the ability to be sent down to Triple-A without passing through waivers, it appeared as though his chances of making the Opening Day roster weren’t great due to circumstance.

Anderson spent several months working with the Indians strength and development coaches and entered came looking like a new person. As a result, he’s had one of the highest increases in velocity this spring, according to Brooks Baseball, at 3.4 mph. Wednesday’s announcement was six months of Anderson not knowing his status or role being relieved.

“For the last probably six months, I’ve been pretty tense, just trying to push the limits on what I can do and working as hard as I can every day to put myself in the best position,” Anderson said. “When [Francona] told me it was almost like, kind of a weight lifted off my shoulders, and now I can just go out there and play.”

Tomlin has maintained that he doesn’t care if he’s in the rotation or the bullpen, and that really no player should be overly concerned with it if it’s helping the team win. Tomlin told Francona that he’s available out of the bullpen early in the season if needed.

“I don't think it's any different than the mind-set I had coming into this spring training anyway,” Tomlin said. “It was to go out there, work hard and try to win a job, but if it doesn't [happen], do your best whatever role they put you in. I think that goes for what everybody in that room should stand for. It should be whatever role you're in, try to do that role as best you can to try to help this team win.”

The Indians also appreciated both Anderson and Tomlin expressing that they’d do whatever was needed for the club, whether that be in the rotation or the bullpen.

“I think we’d be lying if we said we’re not proud as hell of those guys,” Francona said. “That’s not just talk. That’s who they are.”

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Indians SP Josh Tomlin coming together, throws six scoreless in 4-1 win over Mariners (Video)

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 30, 2016

Josh Tomlin saved his best spring outing for last in a 4-1 win against the Seattle Mariners at Goodyear Ballpark Tuesday night.

Tomlin tossed six scoreless innings, struck out 10 and allowed only three hits, lowering his spring ERA to 4.67.

“We’ve been kind of saying all along that he’s working on everything, and I think we kind of saw it come together tonight,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He was really good. Down. Crisp. … It took him a little longer this spring to get going, but that’s the good part about spring training. We’ve got a week left and that’s the way he pitches when he’s good.”

Tomlin has been working this spring on his secondary pitches, specifically his changeup. All four were working for the first time.

“I fooled around with a changeup grip, another changeup grip, because it’s been my fourth-best pitch for quite some time now,” Tomlin said. “I tried to make it better this spring a little bit and maybe over-thought it a little bit. I think today, using the arm speed, trying to keep the arm speed to keep them off-balance and [it’s] understanding my changeup is not going to be the best changeup in the world, but it can be effective if I use it the right way.”

Offensively, Yan Gomes clubbed his fifth-home run of the spring off of Mariners starter Taijuan Walker, a two-run shot. Gomes is now tied with Giovanny Urshela for the spring lead.

“You know what? He's just having good swings,” Francona said. “And, regardless of what happens the first week of the season, because you can't really push a button, I think everybody's seen how healthy he is and what he can do. Over the course of a long year, if he stays healthy, he's really situated to have a good year.”

Tomlin, Cody Anderson and Trevor Bauer are expected to learn their fates Wednesday morning. The team has not explicitly spoken to the roles for any of those three pitchers. Barring a move or the Indians changing their minds on a player, it’s expected that all three will be on the Opening Day roster, with one of them going to the bullpen to start the year.

Tomlin said he doesn’t care where he’s placed. The goal is to win.

“I'm hoping for the best 25 guys—that’s all I'm hoping for,” Tomlin said. “I'm hoping for the guys to get out there and take the best 25 guys who want to go win. That's putting personal preference aside and trying to go out there and doing whatever you can do to help the team win games, because our ultimate goal should be to try to win a World Series, not to [say], 'I'd rather start,' or, 'I'd rather be in the bullpen.' That should be neither here nor there. Get the ball whenever you get the ball, and go out there and try to compete and win.”

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Trevor Bauer tosses six scoreless in 1-1 tie with Anaheim Angels

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 29, 2016

Facing a prospect-heavy lineup, Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer threw six strong innings in a 1-1 tie with the Anaheim Angels.

Bauer, in his final start of the spring, struck out seven and gave up seven hits, lowering his spring ERA to 2.25.

“I don’t think coming out of the chute he had his real, good life [on his pitches],” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It was nice to see even without maybe his best fastball, that he was still able to get them out. I know that wasn’t their best lineup, but he kept them off the scoreboard, which is good.”

The Indians’ lone run came in the third inning, when Roberto Perez singled, advanced to third on two wild pitches and scored on a Jose Ramirez sacrifice fly. Perez also threw out a runner at second base.

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Indians open to Carlos Santana being more aggressive early in counts

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 29, 2016

Indians first baseman Carlos Santana derives a lot of his value in his ability to work the strike zone and get on base, which the club hopes is still as much of an asset this season as it has been in the past.

But if Santana were to, at times, jump on the first pitch and drive it? That’d be OK with them, too.

Opposing pitchers know most at-bats against Santana will be drawn-out, 4-plus pitch chess matches. According to Baseball-Reference, Santana has averaged 4.3 pitches seen per plate appearance in each of the last two seasons, which ranked fourth in baseball both years.

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Danny Salazar, Tyler Naquin lead Indians over A's 6-4

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 28, 2016

Danny Salazar threw six quality innings and Tyler Naquin continued his hot spring in a 6-4 win against the Oakland A’s in Cactus League play.

Salazar allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out three. He is scheduled to have one more start this spring.

“[It was] good. He got through six with a pretty manageable pitch count,” Francona said after the game. “He made a couple mistakes, but he pitched pretty well, so that was good. Guys are getting out now where they’re starting to pitch through the fatigue and see how their legs are and all that. All in all, I think he’s in pretty good shape.”

Naquin blasted his fourth home run of the spring to the opposite field for a two-run shot.

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Indians to place OF Lonnie Chisenhall on DL; Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Dan Otero to make roster

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 28, 2016

The Indians on Monday announced that outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall will open the 2016 season on the disabled list, outfielders Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill will be on the Opening Day roster and relief pitcher Dan Otero has made the club and will act as the seventh member in the bullpen.

Chisenhall is being placed on the disabled list with a left wrist impingement. According to Indians manager Terry Francona, the injury might have come about while Chisenhall dealt with a right forearm issue and tried to overcompensate in order to get ready for the season.

“What happened with Lonnie is I think, through trying to play catch-up, his [left] wrist has kind of gotten aggravated,” Francona said. “We talked to him this morning and it’s just like, trying to play catch-up, I’m not sure that’s the smart thing to do.”

The Indians will see a heavy dose of left-handed starting pitching when they open the season against the Boston Red Sox and then the Chicago White Sox, so if there was a stretch in which Chisenhall could afford to sit, it’s early.

“We’re going to see a bunch of left-handers early and we just think if we DL him today, we can back-date it starting today and he would be able to come off the day we go to Tampa [April 12], and we’ll be able to get him more like Lonnie. I think he understands and I think he agrees.”

Byrd and Cowgill join Rajai Davis and Tyler Naquin as outfielders available for Opening Day, with Chisenhall and Brantley both expected to miss time.

The Indians originally said the club would open the season with five outfielders and seven relief pitchers, though Chisenhall’s DL stint could change things. The Indians could opt to have Jose Ramirez act as the fifth outfielder, as they’ve been encouraged by his play in the outfield this spring.

Otero joins Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Joba Chamberlain and Ross Detwiler in the bullpen.

The club on Monday also optioned left-handed relief pitcher Kyle Crockett to Triple-A Columbus and informed outfielder Robbie Grossman that he wouldn’t be making the team. Relief pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, who was told a few days ago he wouldn’t make the team as a non-roster invitee, informed the organization he’d return to major league camp on Tuesday prior to his season-opening assignment. Gorzelanny will receive a $100,000 retention bonus that includes a June 1 opt-out.

The only question remaining now is the 25th man on the active roster. It’s possible Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin both break camp with the club, giving the Indians 13 pitchers. Tomlin has previous experience in the bullpen, and Anderson could later be optioned down the Triple-A Columbus.

The Indians will also have to make at least three corresponding moves on the 40-man roster, as Byrd, Chamberlain and Detwiler are all non-roster invitees. There will be plenty of action between the active roster and the disabled list early in the season with Chisenhall, Brantley (shoulder surgery) and relief pitcher Tommy Hunter (core muscle surgery) all expected to miss time.

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Juan Uribe, Francisco Lindor, Collin Cowgill home runs power Indians to 10-3 win over Brewers

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 27, 2016

The Indians put together a couple of rallies and received an encouraging outing from Cody Anderson in a 10-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Easter Sunday at Goodyear Ballpark.

Juan Uribe hit his first home run of the spring and added a bare-handed play at third base. Francisco Lindor went 2-for-3 with his second home run of the spring and a double. Collin Cowgill, vying for a spot in the outfield, drove a three-run home run to left field in the eighth inning.

“We’re starting to see better swings [from Cowgill],” Francona said after the game. “It’s been the last 4-5 days where he’s been more himself.”

Cody Anderson threw six innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits ands striking out seven. All three runs were scored on two Scooter Gannett home runs, but the Indians liked what they saw in Anderson’s outing.

“He left a changeup up a little bit for the two-run home run, and then had the solo [home run], but had power to his fastball, was down in the zone, got some swings and misses with it, got some real good changeups,” Francona said. “That was impressive. That’s one of those days where in spring training, he gave up a couple homers, but you leave feeling really good about him because it just seemed like he got stronger and stronger.”

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Indians hope new delivery will help Ross Detwiler, now a member of the bullpen

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 27, 2016

The Indians on Sunday told left-handed relief pitcher Ross Detwiler that he will be making the Opening Day roster. And in doing so, the club hopes an altered delivery allows him to put a poor 2015 away for good.

Detwiler had an ERA hovering around 4.00 for two seasons with Washington before last year, when it ballooned to 7.25 in 41 appearances between Texas and Atlanta. The Indians and pitching coach Mickey Callaway reached out to Detwiler this offseason about straightening and lengthening the stride in his windup. He stands 6-5 but was striding like a 5-10 or 5-11 pitcher. This spring, he’s struck out eight batters and allowed three runs in seven innings pitched.

And now, he’s the sixth pitcher with a secured spot in the bullpen and the first left-hander.

“Talking to [Callaway], I had a connection with him. Everything he was saying made a lot of sense to me,” Detwiler said. “He broke my mechanics down and pointed out what he wanted to work on. So we worked hard this offseason on that, came into the spring, worked a little more and I think those changes helped me a lot.”

The longer stride straightened Detwiler’s delivery, allowing his body to be more direct toward the plate, whereas he used to start out leaning toward the first-base side.

“So we really [worked] on attacking the plate,” Detwiler said. “I feel like I’m throwing a little harder, throwing more strikes, getting on top of the ball and driving it down in the zone a lot more.”

The Indians have had success bringing in pitchers they think they can help, like Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir and others. Those pitchers can be had at cheaper price tags and if the Indians can find the right adjustment, can also provide a quality return on investment. Much of it has been the work of the Indians’ front office to identify possible candidates and the work of Callaway with them. Detwiler could be the next.

“I think our front office does an unbelievable job at knowing who’s out there and who’s available,” Callaway said. “We look at who the person is, we go back and look at what they’ve done in the past. If they’ve struggled at all and we feel like they’re a bounce-back candidate, we look at everything.”

Detwiler joins Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister and fellow non-roster invitee Joba Chamberlain in the Opening Day bullpen. Tommy Hunter, once recovered from offseason core muscle surgery, will join that mix. His expected return is in mid-May.

The seventh and final spot figures to go to either left-hander Kyle Crockett or right-hander Dan Otero. Both pitchers are already on the 40-man roster, but Otero doesn’t have an option remaining. The Indians will also have at least two corresponding moves prior to Opening Day to make room on the 40-man roster for Chamberlain and Detwiler.

“They all know they’re hanging in there,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We’re not delaying this on purpose. We’re just trying to make the best decisions we can.”

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Indians inform RP Ross Detwiler he will make the club; OF Will Venable will not, seeks FA

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 27, 2016

The Indians on Sunday told left-handed relief pitcher Ross Detwiler that he will be making the Opening Day roster.

Detwiler, in camp as a non-roster invitee, is the sixth pitcher with a secured spot in the bullpen and the first left-hander. He joins Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister and Joba Chamberlain. Tommy Hunter will join the team in mid-May as he rehabs from offseason core muscle surgery.

On top of being the first lefty, Detwiler carries the added advantage of being able to throw multiple innings.

The seventh and final spot in the bullpen figures to go to either right-hander Dan Otero or left-hander Kyle Crockett.

The Indians also informed outfielder Will Venable he wouldn’t be breaking camp with the team. Venable has been granted his release and will seek a major league job elsewhere. Relief pitcher Joe Thatcher was also granted his release.

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Indians find some power but lose to Cincinnati Reds 7-4; Gomes, Santana, Napoli homer (Video)

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 26, 2016

The Indians (11-12-3) brought some power but fell to the Cincinnati Reds (10-15-1) 7-4 at Goodyear Ballpark.

Yan Gomes, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana all hit solo home runs in the loss. Gomes and Napoli now each have four home runs this spring, tied for second on the team. Santana has two.

Marlon Byrd, vying for a spot in the Indians’ outfield, went 2-for-3 with two doubles. He now has five doubles in five games since being signed.

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Indians LF Michael Brantley to rest a week; Opening Day seems unlikely

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 26, 2016

Indians LF Michael Brantley to rest a week; Opening Day seems unlikely

Indians left fielder Michael Brantley has been ahead of schedule every step of the way in his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery, but it appears that his goal of returning on Opening Day will not become a reality.

Brantley’s original timetable set his probable return in early May. He did so well in his hitting progression that Opening Day began to look like a possibility, a month ahead of schedule. But after appearing in two games and feeling sore, Brantley has since been held out of Cactus League action as the team tries to be cautious with him.

On Saturday, Indians manager Terry Francona said Brantley won’t be appearing in any spring training games in the next week or so. The odds of Brantley not missing any time in the regular season were never particularly good. Those odds now appear to be slim to none.

“I don’t think you’re going to see him in a major league game this week, that’s for sure,” Francona said. “I hope he’s not disappointed. … There’s not one ounce of disappointment in me. I’m proud of him, man. He busted his ass and he’ll continue to do that.”

The Indians hope to have more clarity on Brantley’s situation in the coming days.

Much of the focus during his rehab has been making sure that when Brantley does return, that his shoulder is strong enough to handle a lengthy regular season.

“I told myself and I told the medical staff that I was going to be honest, and I wouldn't come back unless I'm 100 percent,” Brantley said. “So, I'm just kind of listening to my body and taking it day by day, understanding that it's a different atmosphere in a game-like situation, and I've got to recover faster when I come back from games.”

The Indians haven’t made any definitive determinations with Brantley yet.

“I'm on a day-by-day basis,” Brantley said. “I'm not shut down from anything, but I am listening to my body and listening to the doctors. We're coming up with a game plan every day I come in and get checked out.”

Brantley added that he isn’t disappointed that he won’t likely make it back by Opening Day. But it’s nonetheless frustrating.

“It's frustrating, because I won't be with my teammates, absolutely,” he said. “Any game that they're playing and I'm not, I'm going to be even more eager to get back there. But, I owe it to them and I owe it to myself and the manager and the training staff and everyone in this organization to come back at 100 percent.”

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Indians inform RP Joba Chamberlain he will make the club; Gio Urshela, others optioned to Triple-A

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 26, 2016

The Indians gained some clarity with their bullpen situation on Saturday, informing relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain that he’ll be making the Opening Day roster.

Chamberlain, in camp as a non-roster invitee, is the fifth reliever to nail down a spot in the Opening Day bullpen, joining Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Jeff Manship and Zach McAllister. Tommy Hunter will be in that mix around mid-May when he has recovered from core muscle surgery.

“In a week when you have a lot of tough conversations, that was certainly one of the more rewarding ones,” said Indians manager Terry Francona.  “It’s nice when you’re making difficult decisions but guys step up, kinda like [Tyler] Naquin, and accept the challenge. … He likes to compete, he wants to win and I think he’ll be a really valuable piece down there.

Chamberlain has been around the club since early January and this spring has a 3.38 ERA with seven strikeouts in eight innings pitched. Per Brooks Baseball, in two outings that were tracked, Chamberlain averaged 95.5 mph on his fastball and 87.8 on his slider this spring, both increases over this 2015 averages.

“It was my job to lose at the end of the day,” Chamberlain said. “Whether you’re guaranteed a spot or not, you still have to go in and have a good spring and do things to get better and make your team better and make yourself better. Coming in, I was going to do everything in my power to make this team and just felt I would bring a lot to the ballclub.”

It also means Chamberlain will be at Progressive Field when the team celebrates Travis Hafner’s walk-off hit to win Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS, otherwise known as The Bug Game.

“I guess it all comes full circle,” Chamberlain said. “It’ll be fun to play that part, too. I’ll always be The Bug Guy. It could be worse. Now to be a part of it 10 years later, I started my career and now am starting another chapter of my career. I couldn’t think of any better place.”

On top of Chamberlain winning a spot, the team optioned Austin Adams to Triple-A Columbus and told non-roster invitee Tom Gorzelanny that he wouldn’t be making the club.

The Indians are likely to open the season with seven relief pitchers, leaving two spots up for grabs between three candidates. Right-handed pitcher Dan Otero, left-hander Kyle Crockett and left-handed non-roster invitee Ross Detwiler are all vying for those spots, at least one of which is likely to go to a left-hander.

The Indians’ message to Adams was a positive one, in that the team sees him as a future contributor. Francona said the team told Gorzelanny he is welcome to seek employment with another team, but if another major league opportunity isn’t available, that the Indians would like to have him at Triple-A.

Future 3B

The Indians on Saturday made several additional moves, including optioning third baseman Giovanny Urshela, outfielder Joey Butler and infielder Erik Gonzalez to Triple-A Columbus. Catcher Adam Moore was reassigned to minor league camp.

Urshela had a positive camp, hitting .308 with a team-high five home runs. But with the signing of Juan Uribe and Jose Ramirez available in a utility role, the Indians didn’t have a spot for Urshela on the 25-man roster.

The hope is that, with an extra year of seasoning at Triple-A, Urshela can provide the Indians with a stable presence at third base beginning in 2017.

“That he had a really good camp,” Francona said when asked about the message to Urshela. “And we walked him through it again, why we signed Uribe, that we thought spending some time at Triple-A would be really good for him. … We told him, ‘We signed a guy for a year. We want you to be ready to come be the third baseman and stay here.’”

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Indians to expand netting at Progressive Field in line with MLB’s Fan Safety Initiative

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 25, 2016

The Indians on Friday announced that they will be complying with Major League Baseball’s Fan Safety Initiative, which has urged teams to meet certain standards at their respective ballparks.

Specifically, it means the netting at Progressive Field will be extended to the home plate side of each dugout. The overhead canopy that protected seats behind home plate will also be extended.

Those seats immediately behind each dugout at times can be peppered with line-drive foul balls. Last season, a fan at Fenway Park had life-threatening injuries. In response, Major League Baseball has asked stadiums to include netting in those areas to improve fan safety.

“Our fans’ safety at Progressive Field has been and will continue to be a priority,” said Jim Folk, Indians vice president of ballpark operations in a statement. “We’re pleased MLB and Commissioner Manfred continue to make safety a priority, and we’ll follow their recommendations on continuing to provide a safe environment for our fans.”

The trade-off for improved fan safety is that those seats behind or near the dugout—among the best and most expensive in the stadium—will now no longer have the best access to the players and action due to the extended netting. The Indians said they are employing the latest netting technology to try to limit the intrusion on the live game experience.
“We remain committed to delivering the best possible experience for our fans at Progressive Field,” Folk said. “We’re confident these measures will help us continue to provide a safe environment for our fans while also preserving the unique sightlines and accessibility of our ballpark.”

The club has already begun to reach out to season ticket holders affected by the new netting.

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Cleveland Indians season preview: A crowded outfield and more issues facing the Tribe (podcast)

By Dan Kadar Published: March 24, 2016
Indians Cubs Spring B_Kada

With the return of Michael Brantley, the addition of veteran Marlon Byrd and the hot hitting of Tyler Naquin, the Cleveland Indians have a surplus in the outfield. On this week's podcast, Indians beat writer Ryan Lewis explains how the outfield could play out for Terry Francona and the Tribe.

We also discuss some of the team's biggest issues leading up to Opening Day. Among them is deciding a fifth starting pitcher between Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin. Ryan explains what may give Tomlin the edge. We also talk about how the Indians could construct their bullpen and who will heat leadoff.

Also on this week's show, Ryan was forced to pick who he'd like to see throw out a first pitch or see a national anthem. If you have different choices, let us know in the comments.

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Indians have to make quick judgement on Marlon Byrd, outfield competition

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 22, 2016

The Indians have plenty of unanswered questions regarding the construction of the Opening Day outfield and not much time to figure things out.

After Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley when healthy, everything else is still up in the air. How will center field be resolved? Who fits the “fourth outfielder” role? Who can platoon with Chisenhall in right field?

The leading candidates include Tyler Naquin, Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler and non-roster invites Will Venable and Marlon Byrd, with Robbie Grossman and Shane Robinson as outside contenders.

The decision-making process has to be especially streamlined with regard to Byrd, who the Indians signed to a minor league deal last week. At 38-years-old, Byrd is entering his 15th season and last year hit .247 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI between Cincinnati and San Francisco. He’s hit at least 23 home runs in each of the past three seasons.

But the Indians don’t have much time to evaluate Byrd this spring. Instead of spending six weeks at the Indians’ facility in Goodyear, Ariz., Byrd will have to do everything in about a third of that time, which included getting up to speed and into games when at-bats are at a premium.

“I couldn’t tell one thing [that the team needs to see from Byrd],” Francona told reporters in Goodyear. “It’s not like we need to see him hit a home run. This is going to be a hard one. I think we’re balancing not trying to do too much, too quick. … Because it’s going to be hard unless something jumps out one way or another.”

He’s off to a pretty good start in the two games he’s been able to play thus far, going 2-for-5 with two doubles. He also has his track record in the major leagues and is a career .286 hitter against left-handed pitchers, making him a platoon candidate in right field. He seems like a natural fit, but the Indians will have some decisions to make as April draws near.

“It’s going to be hard,” Francona said. “We recognize that.”

While the Indians have said batting averages and ERAs will not determine who makes the team on Opening Day, Naquin has made a strong case for himself, hitting .400 with a 1.090 OPS in 35 at-bats this spring. He’s also a natural center fielder, something the Indians could use to ease the burden off of Davis.

Byrd’s experience could give him an edge as a non-roster invite, and the Indians have some flexibility due to Butler and Cowgill each having one option remaining. It also remains that none of the leading contenders were playing particularly well prior to Byrd’s signing. In 29 at-bats, Butler has hit .241 with two home runs this spring. Cowgill has struggled, collecting just three hits in 35 at-bats (0.86 BA). Venable hasn’t had the best spring either, hitting .154 in 26 at-bats.

Less than two weeks away from Opening Day, the Indians are trying to do their due diligence to answer one of the remaining questions surrounding the roster.

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Indians reportedly sign OF Marlon Byrd to minor league deal, pending physical

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 17, 2016

The Indians have come to terms with outfielder Marlon Byrd on a minor league deal, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The deal is still pending a physical.

Byrd, 38, will be added to a crowded outfield competition this spring. Last season he hit a combined .247 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 135 games between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. He’s hit at least 23 home runs in each of the past three seasons.

Byrd is a career .286 hitter against left-handed pitching, making him a natural candidate for a platoon in right field with Lonnie Chisenhall. Collin Cowgill comes in the same mold as Byrd with a career .271 mark against left-handers.

Byrd primarily played left field and right field in 2015. He has experience in center field during his career but hasn’t logged significant time there since 2012.

Byrd joins Cowgill, Tyler Naquin, Joey Butler and non-roster invites Will Venable, Robbie Grossman, Michael Choice and Shane Robinson in the competition for a spot in the Indians’ outfield this spring. To date, only Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Michael Brantley (once healthy) have spots secured.

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Indians option RP Giovanni Soto to Triple-A

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 16, 2016

The Indians have optioned left-handed relief pitcher Giovanni Soto to Triple-A. Soto was a candidate for a spot in the Indians bullpen.

Soto last season had a 2.68 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings pitched at Triple-A Columbus and then made his major league debut later in the season. He threw 3 1/3 innings with Cleveland and didn’t allow a run. This spring he struggled in limited work.

“By his own admission, he didn’t command the ball very well or as well as he can,” Francona said. “That happens. We’ve said it all along, four innings in spring training doesn’t define somebody’s career.”

This could open the door for Kyle Crockett, as the Indians have 2-3 spots available in their Opening Day bullpen and have a need for at least one left-handed relief pitcher to be added to that mix. Crockett is already on the 40-man roster. Tom Gorzelanny, Ross Detwiler and Joe Thatcher are all options as left-handed non-roster invitees.

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Indians LF Michael Brantley to appear in minor league game Thursday

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 16, 2016

Indians left fielder Michael Brantley is returning to the field again, another bit of good news in his progression back from offseason shoulder surgery.

Per manager Terry Francona, Brantley will play 4-5 innings in a minor league game on Thursday. It’s his first in-game action after undergoing surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last November that put the beginning of his 2016 season in jeopardy. His Cactus League debut date is still to be determined.

The Indians originally put a timetable of 5-6 months on Brantley’s rehab, which meant he’d miss roughly the first month of the regular season, if not more. Since that time Brantley has passed each milestone in his rehab faster than expected, giving the club good news at each turn. Franconca has maintained the team won’t push Brantley too much or give him an earlier time table and risk a setback, though optimism is growing.

“I think we’ve been pretty honest about where we think he is,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz. on Wednesday. “We’ve tried not to put a timetable [on him] just because we think it’s unfair to him. He’s done such a good job of pushing, cooperating. … He’s a tough kid. For him to be where he is, is remarkable.”

Can Brantley return by Opening Day on April 4? That hasn’t been ruled out, but still seems like a long shot. It is, though, a possibility that didn’t exist a few weeks ago when Brantley started swinging and hadn’t yet hit a live baseball.

“He’s gone above and beyond what anybody could have realistically expected that I don’t want—if he doesn’t play on Opening Day, just think about two months ago, we were talking about the first of May,” Francona said. “This kid has been spectacular in his rehab, so I don’t want that to get lost. And I don’t want him to feel like we’re pushing, pushing, pushing.”

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Indians make first round of roster reductions; Mike Clevinger, Zach Walters included

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 14, 2016

The Indians made their first round of cuts from major league camp on Monday, optioning or assigning seven players to minor league camp.

Pitchers Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando and utility man Zach Walters were all optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Pitcher Dylan Baker was optioned to Double-A Akron. Pitchers Adam Plutko and Will Roberts were re-assigned to minor league camp.

Clevinger, the No. 7 prospect in the Indians’ system according to Baseball America, has made significant progress since the beginning of the 2015 season. He pitched well at Double-A Akron, helped Triple-A Columbus in the playoffs with a couple of quality starts and has garnered some praise from the Indians’ coaching staff this spring in Goodyear, Ariz. He now stands a good chance of becoming the eighth viable starting pitcher the Indians could call upon this season, joining whoever doesn’t win the competition for the No. 5 spot between Josh Tomlin, Cody Anderson and TJ House.

“There’s so much to like about this kid,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Goodyear. “He’s really put himself on the radar for a number of reasons. He’ll go over to that side and do the same things he was doing here. The more repetition he gets, the better.”

Merritt, the No. 22 prospect according to BA, will look to become the ninth pitcher in that line of succession. Clevinger and Merritt are the last two to win the Bob Feller Award as the Indians’ top minor league pitcher in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

Walters has acted as an utility man but this spring was being used exclusively as an outfielder. Walters and the Indians met and wanted to see the best of him, and he wanted to focus on his work in the outfield, including center field. Walters has brought value to the Indians at times with his defensive versatility and his power, but his contact rates have been a major issue.

Morimando (No. 17-ranked prospect) spent the end of 2014 and all of 2015 at Double-A Akron, so he’ll be making the jump to Triple-A for the first time. Baker (No. 24) will be making the jump to Double-A Akron. Pluko (No. 14) got his first taste of Double-A ball last season. Roberts has logged more than 70 innings at Triple-A.

The Indians spring training roster now stands at 53 players and includes 18 non-roster invitees.

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Indians notes on Jose Ramirez, Zach McAllister, Michael Brantley and more

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 9, 2016

The Indians are hoping Jose Ramirez can be more than simply a backup utility player this season.

Ramirez figures to slide into the role vacated by the departed Mike Aviles as a utility infielder who could also see time as an outfielder. Ramirez has provided the Indians with a positive burst of production in spurts but hasn’t put together sustained success at the big-league level yet.

Indians manager Terry Francona said this spring that the team hopes to utilize Ramirez as a “weapon,” not just a plug-and-play utility player when needed. It means possibly looking for spots to get Ramirez into the lineup.

“We haven’t made our roster by any means but under the right circumstances, we want Jose to be a weapon,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz. “I tried to explain that to him in the meeting. Sometimes you have a utility player on your team and it’s like, ‘OK, this guy gets a day off, so we’ll play him.’ What I’d like it to be is where we’re looking at Jose like, ‘Hey, we want to get him in a game.’”

Last season, Ramirez got off to a rough start, hitting below .200 in April and May and struggling in the field. After being demoted to Triple-A, he returned as a more confident player and hit .241 in August and .306 in September. It’s the same type of season-long arc Ramirez had in 2014.

“I think the biggest thing for Jose is just getting out of the gate when it’s cold,” Francona said. “Looks to me like it’s kind of bothered him. Once he gets his legs under him during the season, he’s been a good player. I don’t think it’s just been going back to Triple-A. He’s a pretty confident kid.”

Sick no more

Relief pitcher Zach McAllister returned to camp on Wednesday after missing about a week with the flu. McAllister told he lost 10 pounds in that time.

McAllister will have a modified workout Wednesday and if he feels better will return to normal work. The Indians are stretching McAllister out to three innings as an insurance policy this spring and don’t see the missed week as a concern.

“He felt a lot better,” Francona said. “If he does OK, he’ll be back tomorrow, kind of getting him into the regular day [routine]. … I think it’s much more important to let him get his strength back and not try to rush something just for the sake not missing an outing.”

In the cage

Per Francona, left fielder Michael Brantley has graduated to hitting in the batting cages and could move out to the field for live hitting around this weekend. Still, the team isn’t attaching any specific time table for his milestones or rehab, though he has made progress at an encouraging pace.

“I just want to be careful because he’s done so well,” Francona said. “I just don’t want to be unfair to him because he’s been so good about everything. He’s so far ahead of probably where most people would be. I think a lot of that is attributed to the way he’s gone about it.”

Other injuries

The Indians provided updates on two relief pitchers working their way back this week.

Tommy Hunter, who is expected to be until May after undergoing core muscle surgery this offseason, has tolerated throwing and agility work well and should progress to bullpen activity this week, per the team.

Craig Stammen, still dealing with elbow surgery from last April, is expected to progress to live batting practice within two weeks.

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Outfielder Tyler Naquin vying for center field job

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 8, 2016

In the past few weeks, outfielder Tyler Naquin has gone from an intriguing invitee to major league camp to a serious contender to be the Indians’ center fielder.

He’s off to a positive start, hitting .467, but his chances of making the team have as much to do with how Naquin fits into the Indians’ long-term plans as it does his own performance this spring.

Naquin, the No. 6 prospect in the Indians’ system according to Baseball America, is in a competition for a spot on the Opening Day roster with Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Will Venable, Robbie Grossman, Michael Choice and Shane Robinson.

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Indians add four restaurants to Progressive Field for 2016; Updated renovation photos

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 8, 2016

The Indians announced that four additional local restaurants will be available inside Progressive Field for the 2016 season, bringing the total count to 12 establishments.

Momocho, Fat Head’s Brewery, Dante’s Inferno and The Brew Kettle are the four newest additions. They’ll join the three establishments announced earlier this offseason (Happy Dog, Cleveland Pickle and Ohio City Burrito) and the five that were inserted into Progressive Field last winter (Melt, Sweet Moses, Barrio, Dynomite Burger and Great Lakes Brewing Co.).

The addition of these restaurants is one piece of the second phase of renovations to Progressive Field. A new scoreboard, new video banner boards, a new club behind home plate and a new sound system are also being inserted prior to Opening Day on April 4.

It was also announced on Tuesday that Great Lakes Brewing Co. has expanded its relationship with the Indians and will offer a beer garden inside the park (near section 164).

Below (and above) are updated photos of the renovations.

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Cleveland Indians spring training: Could Tyler Naquin make the Opening Day roster? (podcast)

By Dan Kadar Published: March 7, 2016
Reds Indians Baseball_Kada

Cleveland Indians beat writer Ryan Lewis joins the Akron Beacon Journal and podcast to talk spring training baseball. With Opening Day still several weeks away, Ryan lets us know what to watch as the Indians prepare for the season in Arizona.

For the Tribe, there's a possible spot open in the starting lineup at center field. Could highly regarded prospect Tyler Naquin make the Opening Day roster? Ryan makes his prediction.

MORE: Joba Chamberlain aiming for spot in Indians’ bullpen and away from midges

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Indians LF Michael Brantley graduates to front toss, the cage is next

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 2, 2016

The top story in Indians camp this spring, left fielder Michael Brantley has progressed to front toss as he rehabs from offseason shoulder surgery. It’s the first time he’s hit live baseballs and the last progression before getting into the batting cage, a major step in his road back to the lineup.

To date, the speed at which Brantley has graduated from milestone to milestone has given the Indians some good news.

“There’s significant progression to go. The good news is he’s doing great,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz. on Wednesday. “The hitting guys come back and say, 'He looks great.' You know how diligent he is on what he's doing. He's doing terrific.”

Brantley’s original time table of 5-6 months put his return around the beginning of May, roughly a month into the regular season. It’s appearing possible Brantley could return before then, but the team is remaining cautious in moving up his return date.

“I don't think it's going to be that long, but I think in fairness to him, you start putting a day out there and if he's a week late—he’s doing everything he can to be ready,” Francona said. “That’s good enough for us. We’ve actually told him we don't want him coming back until he's ready.”

Diamond notes

The Indians are stretching out relief pitcher Zach McAllister, in part as an insurance policy this spring and in part because the team feels it better prepares him to pitch.

The club plans to get McAllister to the three-inning mark around the middle of camp. But for his role on the team, he’ll remain in the bullpen barring several unforeseen circumstances.

The club also plans to ease recently signed outfielder Will Venable (non-roster with spring invitation) and third baseman Juan Uribe (one-year, $4 million deal plus incentives) into camp and spring games. Their participating could be limited for a few days.

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Carlos Santana as Indians leadoff hitter still only a thought

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 2, 2016

The idea of hitting Carlos Santana leadoff is certainly an interesting one, but that movement hasn’t gained much ground just yet in Indians manager Terry Francona’s mind.

Francona admitted this spring it’s something he’s kicked around, but only as a thought. He recently had the Indians’ analytical department look at it, and the results weren’t anything that would force his hand.

"I thought statistically that it would really lean more toward him (hitting leadoff) than I even thought, and it really didn’t,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz. “I don't think it's a bad idea, but it wasn't like, 'Oh, you've got to do it.’"

The idea does have some merit, as Santana gets on base, sees a lot of pitches and doesn’t swing at pitches outside of the zone. He has a career .365 on-base percentage and is one of only four players in the game to post an OBP of at least .350 in each of the past five seasons, per And among qualified hitters the past two seasons, Santana has the third-lowest O-Swing% (percentage of swings at pitches outside of the strike zone) in all of baseball at 21.8 percent, according to FanGraphs.

The Indians, though, do have to balance wanting those traits at the top of the order with having Santana’s ability to drive the ball in the middle of the order.

"Some of the power numbers made it that you were losing out a little bit,” Francona said. “But if you get on base anywhere, it's never going to hurt.”

Francona is also balancing a lefty-heavy lineup. It wouldn’t necessarily dictate the order, but if Francona can avoid a string of lefties—namely Jason Kipnis and Micheal Brantley—and stagger Santana and Franciso Lindor at the top as switch-hitters, that’d be ideal.

“You’d like to use that to your advantage,” Francona said.

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