GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta does not view Casey Kotchman as a platoon player. On Monday, he made it clear that Cleveland added Kotchman to the fold to serve as the everyday first baseman.
That fact could mean that catcher Carlos Santana will see more time as a designated hitter this year.
"You do have a first baseman now," Acta said. "What it does is -- probably this year more times than in the past -- we're going to have to take a chance and probably DH Santana, and take the chance that, if [backup catcher Lou Marson] goes down during the game, that we lose the DH."
The situation is such that the Indians want to keep Santana's bat in the lineup as much as possible. That means that, on days he is not catching, the switch-hitter could either work as a first baseman or a DH. It is most likely that those starts would come against left-handed pitching.
Cleveland wants to feature Marson against lefties, considering the catcher hit .297 against southpaws last season. Santana, who belted a team-high 27 homers last season, hit .318 against lefties in 2011. The left-handed-hitting Kotchman handled both righties (.313) and lefties (.289) well last season.
Overall, Kotchman hit .306 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 146 games for the Rays last season. The Indians signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract this offseason.
If Santana does see more time in the DH role, that would mean more days off for left-handed DH Travis Hafner.
Last year, Hafner hit .233 against lefties, compared to .302 against righties. Over the past three years combined, the DH has hit .240 with a .298 on-base percentage and a .382 slugging percentage against left-handers. In that same period against righties, Hafner hit .290/.387/.483.
All of these numbers come into play due to one simple revelation.
"Kotchman comes in and he's our first baseman," Acta said. "He had a good season and he's a guy that we see as a very important part of our club."
Third-base competition will likely go to wire
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have six weeks to name a starting third baseman, and manager Manny Acta believes that the decision to go with either Lonnie Chisenhall or Jack Hannahan could come down to the final days of camp.
"It's probably going to take all the way until the end," Acta said on Monday. "It's going to be a tough decision for us, whichever angle you look at it. We're going to have to evaluate both guys."
The 23-year-old Chisenhall was Cleveland's first-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and is considered the future for the club at the hot corner. Hannahan, on the other hand, is one of baseball's elite defenders and offers the team more veteran experience at the plate and in the clubhouse.
"We know what Hannahan can do," Acta said. "We're looking for Chisenhall to come in and make the progress we're expecting. Sometimes in Spring Training it's just hard to make a decision based on numbers. So we're going to have to zero in not only on numbers, but on the quality of at-bats and defense, and what's best for our franchise in the end."
Hannahan, who signed a one-year contract worth $1.135 million with the Indians over the winter, will likely break camp with the big league team one way or another, barring injury. If Chisenhall earns the starting nod at third base, Hannahan is versatile enough to serve as a utility infielder for the Tribe.
In the event that Hannahan wins the everyday third-base job come Opening Day, it seems likely that Chisenhall would begin the year with Triple-A Columbus in order to receive regular playing time. Acta noted that the focus when evaluating Chisenhall this spring will be on his plate appearances.
"It is more about the plate discipline," Acta said. "We saw that last year, from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues, it was a drastic change up here, and he knows it. At the same time, this guy did some good things when he had an opportunity to go out there and play more often at the end."
Last season, Chisenhall's walk rate dropped from 9.6 percent at Triple-A to just 3.6 percent in his 66-game stint with the Indians. Similarly, his strikeout rate climbed from 16.1 percent at Triple-A to 22 percent with the Tribe. Along those lines, Chisenhall's on-base percentage went from .353 in the Minors to .284 in the Majors in 2011.
Overall, Chisenhall hit .255 with seven homers and 22 RBIs for the Indians last season, while Hannahan posted a .250 average with eight homers and 40 RBIs across 110 games for Cleveland. They both enjoyed strong finishes: Chisenhall hit .315 over his final 19 games and Hannahan hit .368 from Aug. 12-Sept. 28.
Acta will wait to announce Opening Day starter
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are not holding a spring competition for the Opening Day starter role. Manager Manny Acta said on Monday that the club already knows who is in line to receive the honor.
Acta is just not ready to reveal Cleveland's choice.
"We've thought about it," Acta said. "And, of course, we know. But we just don't want you guys to get all your work in on the first day."
Kidding aside, the decision will come down to sinkerballer Justin Masterson or right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Masterson emerged as a staff leader for the Tribe last season. Jimenez was the club's prized acquisition -- costing the club a pair of top pitching prospects -- at the July 31 Trade Deadline last year.
Acta indicated that he wants the pitchers to get through the first week or so of throwing before possibly announcing who will get the Opening Day nod against the Blue Jays on April 5 in Cleveland. The early portion of their throwing programs includes a progression from bullpen sessions to facing live hitters in a simulated-game setting.
Cleveland's pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona on Monday and will undergo physicals on Tuesday. The team's first official workout for its pitchers and catchers will be held on Wednesday at the Player Development Complex.
"We want to make sure that we cover all our points," Acta said, "and we don't have to change our mind in a week. We just have to make sure guys come in and throw, go through the first week and then, when everybody gets the check mark, we'll go from there."
Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 34 games for the Indians last season. He piled up 216 innings, ending the year with 158 strikeouts and 65 walks. The right-hander underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left (non-throwing) shoulder on Oct. 12, but Acta said the pitcher has no limitations as Spring Training begins.
Jimenez -- a 19-game winner and Cy Young contender in 2010 with the Rockies -- endured an up-and-down year last season with Colorado and Cleveland. The Indians landed him with a four-player package, which included highly touted pitching prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.
In 11 starts down the stretch with the Indians, Jimenez went 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA. Over his first 21 outings with the Rockies, the righty went 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA after dealing with groin and thumb issues early last spring. Jimenez spent the offseason training in the Dominican Republic and is deemed healthy right now.
"We know who it's going to be," Acta said of the Indians' Opening Day choice. "We've got our mind made up and all that. We just don't want to give you a name now before they even get on the field."
Quote to note
"Defensively, he continues to make progress. We all know that he's going to be a good defensive third baseman. We know that. It's unfair when he's standing or playing right next to Jack Hannahan to grade him fairly." --Indians manager Manny Acta, on third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall
Cleveland is still working through the details of a potential Minor League contract that would bring right-hander Jon Garland into camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. Garland, who had shoulder surgery last season, did not undergo a physical on Monday at the team's site, as originally planned. The team does not expect to have an update on his status until later this week.
Indians manager Manny Acta said that there is nothing new to report in terms of pitcher Roberto Hernandez's ongoing legal and visa troubles in the Dominican Republic. Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 19 on charges of using a false identity (Fausto Carmona). Hernandez is on the restricted list, and there is still no timetable for his possible return to the ballclub.
Acta said that all of the team's pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona as required on Monday. There is also a large group of position players in camp well ahead of their Thursday reporting date. "The majority of them are coming over here earlier than they had to," Acta said. "It says a lot about their desire to get on the field and make things happen."
The Indians will have one spot up for grabs in the rotation and two available in the bullpen, Acta confirmed on Monday. The starting candidates include Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister. Acta noted that righty Frank Herrmann might have "a bit of a leg up" for one of the relief roles.