SURPRISE, Ariz.: Most of the Indians’ regulars were long gone by the time the team’s reserves and minor-leaguers did their part to provide four late runs to help the Tribe secure a 6-5 victory over the host Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on Monday.
Two of those guys happy to pick up any scraps of playing time they could get were shortstop Elliot Johnson and outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who combined for five of the Indians’ 11 hits.
Both are in camp on minor-league deals as spring training invitees. Johnson went 3-for-3 with two RBI, including a two-run triple that snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning. Francoeur went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“In spring training, there’s balance — guys have to get ready for the season,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But the nonroster guys, this is kind of like the regular season for them. So we try to be respectful and make sure we give them their at-bats and they’re doing the things we thought they could do. Elliot Johnson can move around the field [defensively] and can run, Francoeur gets a couple hits. I hope they all do great and we have a couple tough decisions to make.”
Staked to a 2-0 lead, Corey Kluber started and pitched two solid innings. A right-hander who already has a spot in the Tribe’s rotation, Kluber limited the Rangers to an unearned run on one hit and struck out a batter.
“I think Klubs looks good,” Francona said. “He’s strong, he’s on track. It’s just a matter of getting him built up for the season.”
Carlos Carrasco, who’s battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, followed Kluber.
A right-hander, Carrasco gave up three hits and allowed a run in his two innings of work.
“A couple of hitters he fell behind,” Francona said. “When he works ahead, his stuff is electric. He’s got a breaking ball and a change-up to go with it. We’ve just got to keep pumping him to work ahead because that’s where he’s going to have success.”
Another right-hander, reliever Vinnie Pestano, was sharp in his Cactus League debut, working a perfect inning in the fifth.
“He needed just seven pitches, even got in on a lefty,” Francona said. “I think Vinnie felt good about it and it’s something to build off of for sure.”
Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson spent the day with the Rangers amid plenty of fanfare. The Rangers selected Wilson from the Colorado Rockies in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December.
The former infielder played two seasons in the Rockies’ minor-league system in 2010 and 2011 after being drafted in the fourth round in 2010.
Wilson worked out with the Rangers before the game and then took the lineup card to home plate to exchange with the umpire and Indians bench coach Brad Mills.
After the game, Francona was asked if he took time to get Wilson’s autograph.
“No, I told Millsy I’d give him a hundred bucks if he tackled him, though,” Francona joked.
Wilson’s visit was profitable at Surprise Stadium where $27 Wilson Rangers T-shirts sold out and $125 Wilson baseball jerseys also sold well among the crowd of more than 5,500.
Former Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo was in the lineup against his old team, playing left field and leading off in his first spring training with his new team. Choo, who was with the Tribe for six seasons from 2006-12, went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Home opener sold out
The Indians’ home opener April 4 against the Minnesota Twins sold out in 15 minutes Monday, the 22nd consecutive home opener sellout and the 21st at Progressive Field (opened in 1994). Fans can still attend the home opener by purchasing a full-season ticket package.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.