SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mitch Talbot and his manager were both asked about the difference in his Spring Training approach as a locked-in member of the Indians rotation, and both dismissed the notion.

But there is one undeniable contrast between this spring and last, when the right-hander was pitching for a job: He can give up a game-opening bomb without wiping smiles of satisfaction off his and the manager's faces.

"I thought he pitched great," manager Manny Acta said following an 11-9 Cactus League loss to the Rangers on Thursday, a game that fell apart long after Talbot's two-inning start. "He threw first-pitch strikes. We've been preaching about that, and he did it."

Talbot allowed a game-opening homer to Ian Kinsler and a second first-inning run. But even though five of the 10 men he faced reached base -- and another, Nelson Cruz, drilled a sacrifice fly -- he was pleased to have "kept the ball down for the most part."

"I like to compete. I've always been very competitive. I guess I was born that way," Talbot said of the lack of pressure on him after he went 10-13 as a rookie last season. "I kind of expected to win in double figures, and now I've set the bar higher."

Showing the effect of working far more innings (159 1/3) last season than ever before, Talbot ran into what general manager Chris Antonetti characterized as "fatigue" in the second half of the season. He made only 11 of his 28 starts after the All-Star break and averaged less than five innings in them.

"Our goal is to have him make 30 starts and pitch a little deeper in games," Antonetti said. "If he does that, he has a chance to have a pretty good year for us."

Tribe still reeling from Santana's head-first slide

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- By now, Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti has dislodged his heart from his throat. And Indians manager Manny Acta has resumed normal breathing.

After all, it has been two days since Carlos Santana, the 24-year-old future catching star, ended a stop-and-start 270-foot tour of the bases with a head-first slide into a home plate barricaded by Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas.

"That," Antonetti said, "was not the highlight of Spring Training. Thankfully he got through it OK, and hopefully it will be a learning lesson for him."

Just to make sure of that, the Indians staff apparently has sermonized to Santana about the evils of heading home. But not the expense of doing so.

"I've been in organizations where you get flat-out fined for sliding head-first," Acta said.

With the Indians, the price of the hazardous maneuver still is only exacted with words.

"I think a number of people have talked to Carlos about it," Antonetti said. "We're constantly lecturing guys in the Minor Leagues about the dangers of sliding head-first, but it's a challenge [to get them to change]. Unfortunately, what usually breaks that habit is a separated shoulder."

Santana's adventure had begun when he was on first base as Travis Hafner slapped a single to left field. When Los Angeles left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. muffed the ball, Santana continued to third and tried to beat the relay throw home. But his slide ended at Barajas' left foot, which had the plate blocked.

"It's instinctive. It's real hard to get guys to stop it," Acta said. "I tried to scare Carlos out of it. I asked him, 'How'd you like to spend an entire year here rehabilitating?'"

Worth noting

Indians manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti both dismissed Orlando Cabrera's shoulder issues as "a veteran just getting his body ready for the season." "He had a little oblique problem at the end of the season and took it easy in the offseason," Acta said. "He's played in the big leagues forever. He knows what his body needs to get ready." ... Done with his five-day shutdown, Anthony Reyes (elbow discomfort) is expected to begin playing light catch on Friday. The non-roster righty will get a delayed start to his competition for a starting job. "At some point, the calendar will make it challenging for him to get on an equal footing, at least for Opening Day," Antonetti said. ... Depending on how outfielder Shelley Duncan (back muscle) bounces back from Thursday's full workout, he could resume game action on Saturday. ... The Indians allowed nearly as many runs in Thursday's 11-9 loss to Texas as they had in their first four exhibitions (12), spoiling Matt LaPorta's pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh.