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Notes: Bullpen close to being settled
03/12/2007 5:25 PM ET
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Eric Wedge knows better than to say he feels confident in his bullpen.

The Indians' manager has been burned before. Several times, in fact.

"We need to get into the season," Wedge said. "I do feel strong about the guys we've brought back. We'll see what happens."

Wedge won't confirm it, but the bullpen looks set. It was known coming into camp that veteran additions Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz would all be in the mix and that Rafael Betancourt would return. Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera are both out of Minor League options and the Indians don't want to expose them to waivers, so they're safe bets to be on board.

That leaves open the last spot, which was Matt Miller's to claim, depending on the health of his right elbow. The elbow hasn't been a problem at all for the 35-year-old Miller. He pitched in Monday's game against the Pirates, allowing two runs on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts, but those were the first runs he's allowed in five Grapefruit League outings. He's struck out 11 of the 24 batters he's faced.

Before the game, Wedge stopped short of confirming Miller is on the club, as the organization has yet to finalize that decision.

"I've got to get the go-ahead on that," he said. "But [Miller] has done everything we needed to see, and he needs to keep doing it."

As for what he's seen from the newly acquired veterans, Wedge has been pleased. Closer Borowski has worked three innings in which he has yet to allow an earned run. Hernandez has pitched four scoreless innings. Fultz was roughed up on Friday against the Pirates, giving up three runs in 1 2/3 innings, but he recovered Monday against that same club, working a scoreless inning.

"As far as leadership, toughness and experience, they're bringing it," Wedge said of the three veterans. "They look good."

Davis, 26, and Cabrera, 25, need to bring more consistency to the table, Wedge said. Davis has given up a pair of runs in four innings, while Cabrera has given up four runs in five innings, walking two batters and striking out none.

If the season began today, right-hander Tom Mastny, who saved five games in the bigs last season, would be the first bullpen depth option in Triple-A Buffalo.

"He's at the top of the list, today," Wedge said. "His stuff is good, live and strong. He just needs to fine-tune himself a bit, which I expect to happen."

When Keith Foulke retired at the outset of camp, the Indians said they might pursue trade options for the 'pen if they didn't like what they saw from the internal candidates. For now, that doesn't appear to be on the horizon.

"We're always looking to get better," Wedge said. "But looking and finding are two different things. We're focused on the guys here. We need to make sure we bring the right guys out there."

Catching on: Pencil Mike Rose in as the Indians' third catcher.

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Rose won't be on the Opening Day roster, but he is expected to be the everyday catcher at Triple-A Buffalo and, thus, the first line of defense in the event of an injury to Victor Martinez or Kelly Shoppach.

"It's such an important role," Wedge said. "It gets to be important real quick if something happens."

Rose earned the job not only by hitting .400 (6-for-15) with four doubles and four RBIs in his first nine exhibition games, but also by impressing Wedge with the way he handles himself behind the plate.

"He's hard-nosed," Wedge said. "He does a lot of things we like to see."

Wedge has also liked what he's seen from Max Ramirez, who was acquired in last July's Bob Wickman trade, and Wyatt Toregas.

"They're going to be pretty good ballplayers," Wedge said, "but they're younger."

Hey batter, batter: Jeremy Sowers can't remember the last time he swung a bat, and he sure wasn't swinging one Monday, either.

Pitchers batted in the road game against the Pirates, but Sowers was ordered not to swing. He kept the bat on his shoulder as four pitches sailed by for a strikeout on a 1-2 count.

"I hope it wasn't too obvious [that I wasn't going to swing]," Sowers said. "We haven't worked on hitting, and the last thing you want is to hurt your oblique or something stupid by swinging. It would have been my first swing in I don't even know how long. I don't want to speculate."

It's likely the 23-year-old Sowers hasn't had an at-bat since high school. But he did take solace in the fact that he spotted the ball well. He said the pitch that struck him out was a slider.

"I told him he looked good up there," Wedge said. "I told him he looked like John Olerud. He said, 'I'm probably six inches shorter.'"

As for his performance on the mound, Sowers worked four innings, giving three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits with a walk and a strikeout.

"My rhythm wasn't really good," Sowers said. "I wasn't fluid. That being said, at least I wasn't working in 3-0 counts. I had some 0-2 counts, which is nice."

Forget about it: The Indians were going to take infield practice before Monday's game, but one look at the rough conditions of the field forced them to cancel that plan.

Second baseman Mike Rouse made an error, shortstop Luis Rivas misplayed two balls and third baseman Casey Blake didn't get in front of one hit his way, but Wedge was far from concerned, given the choppy conditions.

"This was a mulligan day for them," Wedge said. "Just like you hear judges say, disregard what you saw."

On deck: Staff ace C.C. Sabathia has even more of a load to carry, now that the Indians know they'll be starting the season without third starter Cliff Lee. He'll take the next step in preparing to carry that load when he gets the start against left-hander Jason Vargas and the Mets at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Chain of Lakes Park. Fultz, Brian Slocum and Betancourt are also scheduled to throw in the game, which will be broadcast on SportsTime Ohio.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.