Notes: Dynamic double-play duo
Barfield and Peralta turn two six times in a single game
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Shortstop Jhonny Peralta and second baseman Josh Barfield virtually have been joined at the hip this spring."They're living together," joked catcher Kelly Shoppach, seated beside Barfield in the clubhouse at Chain of Lakes Park on Friday afternoon. They might as well be, given the amount of time they've spent together lately. "Every game and every drill, we've been paired up," Barfield said. "It's definitely a good idea on [the Indians'] part. It's sped up the process." The process, namely, is getting Peralta and the newly acquired Barfield acquainted with each other in the middle infield. The Indians certainly aren't complaining with the results -- especially Thursday night against the Tigers, when Peralta and Barfield teamed up on six double plays. If these games counted, that number would have tied a club record. "I've never been a part of six double plays in a game before," Barfield said. After enduring a 2006 season of poor infield defense, particularly from Peralta, manager Eric Wedge is hoping there are more games like Thursday's still to come from the pair. "I think they're doing a good job getting to know each other fairly quickly," Wedge said. "They'll complement each other nicely." In the meantime, Barfield is complimenting Peralta's defensive play. He knows the shortstop was much maligned last season, but he doesn't think the criticism is justified, based on what he's seen this spring. "He's made all the plays you expect him to make and some spectacular ones, too," Barfield said. "He's going to quiet a lot of doubters." Decisions, decisions: In a development that wasn't expected at the outset of camp, the Indians might carry a fifth outfielder, if Ryan Garko doesn't make the club (which is possible) or if they don't keep two utility infielders (which is probable). Ben Francisco, who has had an eye-opening camp, and Shin-Soo Choo would be the frontrunners for the fifth outfield job, if it indeed exists. "We'd just look for the best player to complement our everyday players and give us the best chance to win," general manager Mark Shapiro said.
The Indians haven't been particularly blown away with the results of Garko's extra work on the defensive side at first base, though they certainly have appreciated his effort."He's worked hard to get better," Shapiro said. "I'm not going to base my evaluation [of Garko's play] on 12 games, but the quality of the work and the effort has been there." Throwing a fifth outfielder into the mix would make Casey Blake, who made his first appearance in right field Friday night against the Astros, more of an everyday infielder. He'd likely get additional starts at first base against left-handed pitching. Garko's chance of making the team improves if the Indians deem designated hitter Travis Hafner ready to play once or twice a week at first base. If that's the case, Garko could DH on days Hafner is in the field. "We'll make the decisions," Shapiro said, "that are best for the Major League team to help us win games." The utility bill: The Indians expect to make the decision on Garko and the decision on their utility infield spot before they leave Florida next Friday and head to Memphis for the Civil Rights Game against the Cardinals. For now, Shapiro is tight-lipped as to whether or not the Tribe's utility man is, indeed, in-house. "I'll refrain on that one," he said. "That's not constructive right now. I will say I've seen a lot of good things from some of the guys in-house." Hector Luna, Mike Rouse and Luis Rivas are the remaining candidates for the job. Shapiro has said before that if the Indians aren't satisfied with their internal options, they'll explore the trade market for infield help. Luna came into camp as the frontrunner, but he has made eight errors in 17 games, including a botched attempt to handle a Luke Scott grounder in the fifth inning Friday. Tribe tidbits: C.C. Sabathia got his work in Friday by pitching six scoreless innings in a Triple-A game against Houston's Round Rock club, giving up five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. He threw 88 pitches. "It was a good work day for him," Wedge said. ... Left-hander Cliff Lee, recovering from a right abdominal strain that will keep him out of the rotation at the outset of the season, played catch out to 105 feet Friday, and no trouble was reported. The Indians hope to have Lee throwing a bullpen session in the next 10 days. ... Infielder Joe Inglett, hindered by a hamstring strain, did some running drills Friday afternoon, but he remained out of action in the game against the Astros. ... Players' union chief Don Fehr and his crew, which includes Bobby Bonilla, held their annual meeting with Indians players before Friday's game. Blake is the Tribe's union rep, and Jake Westbrook is his backup. On deck: The Indians are beginning to line up their starting pitchers in the order they'll start the season, so they'll use Saturday's 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Braves as a work day for their relievers. Right-hander Tom Mastny will get the start opposite Atlanta righty Buddy Carlyle. Fernando Cabrera, Juan Lara and Matt Miller also scheduled to throw for Cleveland.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.