MESA, Ariz.: Jason Kipnis and Cedric Hunter hit their first home runs of the spring — Hunter’s a three-run blast — as the Indians pounded the Chicago Cubs 9-2 Saturday at HoHoKam Stadium.
“We seem to generate more enthusiasm when we have veteran guys [on the road],” manager Terry Francona said. “I’m not sure I understand it, but it’s a good thing.”
Michael Bourn, Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher were among the more seasoned players making the trip.
Ben Francisco contributed a double, and Ezequiel Carrera had two singles, as the Tribe accumulated 12 hits and benefitted from six Cubs walks.
DECISIONS — With starting pitchers now working four innings, Francona will have to limit the number of pitchers who are considered starters. That might mean David Huff is headed for the bullpen.
Huff started Saturday and gave up two runs in three innings, both runs coming on Javier Baez’s home run.
“Pretty soon, we’re going to have to start talking to some guys,” Francona said. “We have some things to sift through.”
In addition, the Tribe probably will make its second cut of the spring today or Monday.
BRANTLEY IS BACK — Michael Brantley will return to the lineup today after missing 10 days because of a deep cut in his left arm that required 15 stitches to close.
“He’ll DH tomorrow and we’ll put him up near the top of the order so he can get two at-bats,” Francona said. “On Monday he’ll play left and get the next day off.”
Brantley sustained the injury when he was spiked sliding into third in a game against the Oakland Athletics.
HOW GOOD? — New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, who announced that this will be his last season, is widely regarded as the greatest closer ever.
“It’s hard to compare generations, like when closers threw three innings,” Francona said. “But in the modern era, I don’t think anybody can touch him. I hated hearing that song [Enter Sandman] [played when Rivera enters a game].
“We [Boston Red Sox] probably had as much success as anyone against him, but we faced him more, too. You know what he’s going to throw [cutter], and you still can’t hit it, or at least it doesn’t go anywhere. And he’s done it forever.”
PLENTY Of WORK — Tribe relievers who played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic got little work and struggled when the regular season started.
It doesn’t look like Vinnie Pestano, who plays for Team USA, will have that problem.
“He pitched in one of the [WBC] exhibition games and he threw last night [against Mexico],” Francona said. “He also warmed up in the fourth and fifth inning before pitching in the sixth. To this point, he’s been on a very good schedule.”
Pestano is staying near the Tribe’s complex in Goodyear and stops in nearly every morning to work out and get treatment from the training staff.
BAUER SHINES — Trevor Bauer delivered four scoreless innings, giving up one hit, one walk and striking out three, as the Indians defeated the Chicago White Sox 6-3 in a “B” game in Goodyear, Ariz.
At the other end of the spectrum, Joe Smith yielded three runs, three hits and two walks in one-third of an inning. Nick Hagadone, Bryan Shaw, Scott Barnes and Jerry Gil each pitched one scoreless inning.
“B” GAME FRENZY — The Tribe will play another “B” game on the practice fields at the Goodyear complex Monday against the Los Angeles Angels.
MARCHING ONWARD — The Indians return to Goodyear today to play the Texas Rangers. Carlos Carrasco will start against Robbie Ross.
— Sheldon Ocker