GOODYEAR, ARIZ: Most Indians fans never heard of Matt Carson before spring training. There probably are still thousands of Northeast Ohio baseball partisans who are a little fuzzy about the identity of the 31-year-old outfielder.
But Carson is tied for the Tribe lead with three home runs after hitting a three-run blast in a 9-7 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday at Goodyear Ballpark.
Carson is a veteran with only 166 major-league at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins and still has an uphill battle to win a spot on the bench. However, in his first 14 at-bats of the spring, Carson is hitting .286 with six RBI.
Mike McDade, 23, also hit a three-run homer and lifted his spring average to .500 (6-for-12) with nine RBI and one strikeout.
McDade was claimed on waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays, who had to clear roster space after making a major trade. Last year, the big (6-foot-1, 250 pounds) first baseman batted .275 with 16 doubles, 15 homers and 49 RBI in 378 at-bats at Double-A New Hampshire.
Toward the end of the season, he was elevated to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he batted .338 with three doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI in 18 games. He struck out only 11 times in 71 at-bats.
Scott Kazmir made his second effective outing of the season, whereas Justin Masterson was shelled for four runs and six hits in 2⅔ innings.
Masterson’s problem: a sinker ball that didn’t always sink.
“When he got underneath the pitch, it got whacked,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who added that when Masterson stayed on top of the ball, his sinker was a tough pitch to hit in the air.
“I think I was trying to put a little too much into it, trying a little too hard,” Masterson said, explaining why he was overthrowing. “Sometimes you have to pump things back a little.”
Kazmir delivered two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. In two outings, he has thrown four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, walking one and striking out four.
The scoreboard gun at the Rangers’ ballpark in Surprise, Ariz., indicated that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s fastball was traveling less than 85 miles per hour Thursday, but Francona wasn’t convinced.
After looking at his own team’s scouting charts, the manager said, “He topped out at 90. I thought that gun was slow, and it was.”
Michael Brantley has begun to take part in lower body strength and conditioning and cardio workouts. He is permitted to swing a bat in one-handed drills.
Brantley suffered a deep cut near his left elbow last Tuesday and took 15 stitches when he was spiked during a play at third against the Athletics.
Joe Smith (oblique strain) threw a simulated game on Thursday and is scheduled to throw live batting practice today.
Both players are expected to be ready long before Opening Day.
The Indians will stay in Goodyear, Ariz., today to play the San Diego Padres. Ubaldo Jimenez will start for the Tribe against Edinson Volquez.