GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: As many as 10 starters will try to squeeze into five spots in the Indians’ rotation, which happens to be the segment of the club with the most question marks.
Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers and Zach McAllister are all but locks to fill four of the berths, with Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir and David Huff (who might be shifted to the bullpen) banging on the door trying to get in.
One logistical question: Are there enough innings during exhibition season to give all of these pitchers a fair chance? With 41 practice games (including split squad games) instead of the usual 31 or 32, the answer would seem to be yes.
Why are there so many exhibition games? Because of the World Baseball Classic, spring training will last seven weeks instead of six.
Even so, the Tribe might have to add innings.
“I think they’ll get their normal spring training work,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said Wednesday. “But we’ll have to play more games, more B games. We also can have our starters [with assured jobs] do part of their work in minor-league games.
“But as we get later in camp, we’ll have to whittle down the list. You can’t keep 10 starters stretched out all spring.”
As manager Terry Francona said, “We’ve talked about that extensively. If we feel like we’re going to be short [of innings], we’ve already been contacted by the [Colorado] Rockies about playing B games.”
Where he stands
Because of his youth and the presence of so many contenders, there has been a question as to whether Bauer, who turned 22 in January, will receive a legitimate opportunity to make the team.
“He’ll have a chance,” Antonetti said. “He’s coming here to compete for a spot. We’re not predisposed to think either way. We want to go with the guys who are going to help us win. In the end, if he starts the season in the minor leagues, he’ll benefit from the development.”
Added Francona, “We’re hoping for big things from him. Whether it’s on Opening Day, he’ll decide that.”
Reliever Joe Smith said his sore oblique isn’t going to affect his readiness to begin the season on time.
“I’m already throwing from 75 feet,” he said. “I should be throwing off the mound soon.”
Francona said that right-hander Trey Haley will be held back because of “a balky shoulder.”
“We’re going to hold him back for a week,” Francona said.
First baseman Matt LaPorta, who underwent surgery to clean out his hip, isn’t expected to see game action until mid-March.
“Opening Day is not the finish line for him,” Francona said. “And he knows that.”
Do me a favor
Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano are scheduled to pitch for the Team USA in the WBC, but Francona will ask officials if they can return (from the other side of Phoenix) to pitch in an exhibition game during the tournament.
“I’m going to call [manager] Joe Torre and see if that’s all right,” Francona said. “I don’t see that it would be a problem, but I’ll ask. It’s only 20 minutes away.”
A change in the Basic Agreement allows all players with at least six years in the big leagues to move on if they’re signed to minor-league deals in the spring.
For the Tribe, this applies to Jason Giambi and Matsuzaka. Both players can ask for their release March 26 if they have not been added to the roster. If a player does not ask for his release, the club can ship him to the minors by paying a retention fee of $100,000. However, the player can leave June 1 if he has not been elevated to the big leagues.
Without revealing numbers, the Indians announced Wednesday that they sold as many season tickets (or packages) on Tuesday as they do in a normal offseason month.
Individual game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 25.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.