GOODYEAR, Ariz.: There was an old-school Tribe reunion during the Indians’ first full-squad workout Monday morning as former manager Mike Hargrove, outfielder Kenny Lofton and second baseman Carlos Baerga joined in the action.
Unlike Lofton and Baerga, who sported uniforms, Hargrove arrived in the middle of the morning practice dressed in street clothes. After hugging and chatting with a handful of players, he made his way to the batting cage.
“Guess I’ll see if [hitting coach] Ty [Van Burkleo] needs some help,” Hargrove said to no one in particular.
Hargrove didn’t end up helping much Monday. But if current Tribe skipper Terry Francona has his way, that will quickly change when Hargrove returns today to pitch in and then again for a 10-day stretch later in the spring.
“I told Mike I want him around as much as possible,” Francona said. “I told him this winter that I’d like him to come a little longer. I want him to have a comfort level. Being a former manager, I think he’s very cognizant of not wanting to do too much. But I told him he can’t do that here. He has carte blanche to move around and he knows he can get in and get dirty.”
Baerga was an active participant in drills, even taking throws at second base early in the workout as infielders worked on double plays. After a session during which Lonnie Chisenhall and former catcher Carlos Santana rotated at third base with Francona hitting to them, Baerga shared his thoughts on Santana’s progress.
“[Santana] has soft hands, a strong arm,” he said. “Now we gotta see it in games. It’s not the same in the Dominican in winter as here in the big leagues.”
Baerga was referring to Santana spending the offseason reacquainting himself with third base during winter ball in the Dominican Republic. On one early throw, Santana ranged to his right and snagged a hard-hit ball, but fired a little low to Baerga covering second.
“Hey, right here,” Baerga said, patting his chest to indicate where the throw should have been. “Hit me up here.”
When Francona was asked if he thought Santana looked comfortable at third base, he responded in a complimentary, albeit roundabout way.
“I don’t know if skeptical is a fair word when Carlos started to do this, but from the minute we’ve laid eyes on him [this spring], he’s been nothing but diligent. I mean [he’s] staying at it to the point where he’s taking a [reaction ball] that bounces every which way back to his room at night to work on side-to-side [motion].
“He has worked so hard just to get to this point, I’m so proud of him already just for what he’s done. It’s going to be interesting going forward. … But he’s aware that just because he wants to play third, it doesn’t mean he’s gonna play third.”
As for Francona’s thoughts on the other third-base option, Chisenhall: “We’re a better team with him on it. But we want him to earn it.”
Not gonna take it
Designated hitter Jason Giambi is considered to be an extension of the coaching staff on the field, which is why Francona should be thrilled to hear the veteran’s optimistic view heading into this season.
“We’re not going to be the ‘Cinderella’ anymore,” Giambi told a group of reporters before the morning workout. “We have an opportunity [here] … I really think this organization can turn it around and be considered a winning team every year.”
The Indians released medical updates on three rehabbing players Monday. Right-handed pitcher Frank Herrmann, who is 11 months in recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery, is progressing to live (batting practice) sessions. First baseman/outfielder Bryan LaHair is recovering from left wrist surgery performed in September. Although he’s able to participate in most baseball activities, he’s been limited to hitting off a batting tee. Infielder Jose Ramirez, who had left thumb surgery in December, is estimated to be seven to 10 days from being able to take batting practice on the field.
MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweeted Monday that Indians ace pitcher Justin Masterson said his agent “talked with Tribe Sunday and will do so again [Monday]” in the hopes of avoiding Thursday’s scheduled arbitration hearing.
Masterson’s case is the final of the four the Indians prepared for this season after successfully avoiding the arbitration process for the previous 22 years. The club won its cases with right-handed pitchers Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin, then was able to agree on a long-term extension with Michael Brantley to avoid a hearing with the outfielder.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. 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.