CLEVELAND -- A group of Indians prospects will get a head start on their Spring Training, heading to Progressive Field on Monday for the beginning of this offseason's Winter Development Program.
Among the 14 players taking part in the annual program will be second baseman Jason Kipnis, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and right-hander Alex White. The two-week event opens with a one-week session at the Tribe's home ballpark and concludes at the Indians' player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
Kipnis and White were Cleveland's Minor League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, for the 2010 season. Chisenhall is widely considered the Tribe's top prospect and future third baseman. All three players could see time with the Indians at some point during the 2011 season.
Other participants in this year's Winter Development Program include: outfielders Ezequiel Carrera and Chad Huffman; left-handers Nick Hagadone and Matt Packer; right-handers Corey Kluber, Chen-Chang Lee, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano and Bryce Stowell; and infielders Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps.
As things currently stand, a handful of these players could be in the mix for spots on the Tribe's Opening Day roster with strong spring showings. Kipnis is a candidate for second base, Goedert and Phelps could make a push at third base, Huffman will get a look as a reserve outfielder and Pestano and Stowell might be bullpen options.
The Winter Development Program -- first developed by current Indians team president Mark Shapiro and now under the direction of Ross Atkins, the Tribe's vice president of player development -- focuses on "honing the players' physical, mental and fundamental skills," according to the team. The program is in its 16th year of existence.
During the program's first week in Cleveland, players will have classroom sessions, along with conditioning and fundamental work. The players will also have the chance to listen to guest speakers, including former Indians Sean Casey and Eduardo Perez. While in Cleveland, the players will also take part in various community and charitable activities. From Jan. 23-29 in Arizona, the players shift their focus to on-field drills.
Indians hire Wiedenbauer: On Wednesday, the Indians announced the hiring of Tom Wiedenbauer as the club's new field coordinator for the player development system. Wiedenbauer replaces Dave Hudgens, who was recently hired as the hitting coach for the New York Mets.
Wiedenbauer joins the Tribe after filling a variety of roles over 35 seasons in the Astros' organization. Dating back to 1976, when he was selected by Houston in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft, Wiedenbauer has gained experience as a player, coach, manager, instructor, field coordinator and professional scout. Wiedenbauer spent the last two seasons as a pro scout after eight years as the Astros' Minor League field coordinator.