GOODYEAR, Ariz.: It was only a baby step, but batting practice Friday at Indians camp was considered progress as the pitchers threw to their hitting counterparts during the morning workout.
After groups worked on rundowns between the bases and pitchers practiced pickoff moves, the players split up and fanned out to various practice fields.
For the next hour-plus, Indians batters stood in at the plate but didn’t have to swing if they didn’t want to.
On one field, catcher Matt Treanor realized reliever Cody Allen was more than ready to take on live hitters after just a handful of warmup pitches.
“You brought extra bats, right?” he said to batters standing nearby waiting to hit.
Just like that, an Allen pitch shattered third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat on the first swing.
Over on another field, center fielder Michael Bourn managed to fist a Justin Masterson pitch foul, but not without first absorbing some of the painful vibrational sting.
“Owww, damn!” Bourn said, waving his hand afterward.
Minor-league pitcher Preston Guilmet even got in on the act when the tall right-hander cracked the bat of Yan Gomes on one of the catcher’s first swings.
“It’s not exactly the most popular day in camp,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “[There tends to be] a lot of bruises, but they’re all aware that it’s for the pitchers. But it’s another step closer to getting into games. … Right now, [the pitchers] are building arm strength and working on their deliveries.”
Francona was also pleased to see his pitchers not afraid to throw without the protection of screens.
“I’m glad,” he said. “I know if somebody gets [a ball] off the knee, [we’ll be] answering for it. But it’s just more natural, it’s more game like and we all think it helps. That said, they have to right to use one if they want one.”
Pestano on slow track
Not every Indians pitcher saw live action Friday, including reliever Vinnie Pestano, who is still throwing bullpens on the side while taking it slow this spring after last season’s struggles that cost him his set-up role.
However, the Indians’ depth of competition among bullpen candidates is a clear indication that Pestano isn’t guaranteed a roster spot.
“He hadn’t thrown a ton of bullpens before he got here,” Francona said. ‘‘I didn’t see him throw [Friday], but [bullpen coach Kevin] Cash and [pitching coach] Mickey [Callaway] were raving about him. So, that’s good. Everybody’s on their own time frame. You don’t need to rush guys. We have plenty of arms in camp we can look at early and bring [other] guys along as appropriate.”
A puzzling start
With a larger-than-normal group of veterans trying to make the Indians roster such as Jeff Francoeur, outfielder Nyjer Morgan, first baseman Brian Lahair and pitcher David Aardsma, camp tends to look like one big giant puzzle that could take forever to piece together. But there’s no sense of urgency on Francona’s part.
“If you try to sit here now and put your team together, the pieces don’t look like they fit,” Francona said. “So that’s why you bring in as many players as you can, and through injuries or things that happen that you aren’t expecting, it just kind of works itself out. You try to evaluate everyone in your camp and then when the season starts, make them fit together. It may not always fit on their timetable [i.e. Opening Day], but like we tell them, ‘If you can really help us win, you’ll find your way here.’ ”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.