GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta called Cristian Guzman this offseason and asked if the veteran infielder was interested in attempting a comeback. Cleveland was willing to offer Guzman that chance.
On Wednesday, which was Guzman's second day in camp with the Tribe, the Indians officially anounced that they signed the infielder to a Minor League contract that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Guzman passed a physical with Cleveland on Tuesday and has already been taking part in on-field workouts.
"We've got a really good relationship," said Guzman, referring to Acta. "He was the guy that called me. He asked if I wanted to keep playing and said I could come here and sign a Minor League contract. If something happens, I could help the team. So I said, 'OK, I'll go.'"Acta said Guzman -- despite missing all of last season -- would compete for a utility role on Cleveland's bench.
"He took a year off last year due to some nagging injuries and stuff, but he's still only  years old. He's going to be in the mix."
Guzman becomes the 62nd player in this spring's crowded Cleveland camp. He also ups the list of non-roster invitees to 22 players, including 13 new additions who joined the team on Minor League contracts this winter. Among that group, Andy LaRoche and Jose Lopez are also in the mix as utility players.
Guzman, who will turn 34 in March, played for the Washington Nationals during Acta's time as manager of that team. The infielder indicated that the plan is for him to see time at both shortstop and second base this spring. Acta added that Guzman could see action at third base this spring, too.
It was reported last March that Guzman was going to miss a significant portion of the 2011 season because of family issues. On Tuesday, Guzman said it was an ailing right shoulder that forced him to miss the entire campaign. He noted that his shoulder is now healthy as camp begins.
"I want to keep playing, so I'm here to try to do my job," Guzman said. "They said, 'Come here, work hard and let's see.' That's it."
Guzman underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his throwing shoulder in October 2009 and said he experienced complications after the surgery. His last season came in 2010, when he hit .266 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 104 games between stints with the Nationals and Rangers.
Over parts of 11 seasons in the Majors, Guzman has hit .271 with a .307 on-base percentage between stops with Minnesota, Washington and Texas. Asked if he believes he can indeed make a comeback as a player, Guzman cracked a smile.
"That's why I'm here," he said.
Pitch usage, mechanics key to Lowe's rebound
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After analyzing as much data as possible, the Indians pulled the trigger on trading for veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe over the winter with the belief that there were plenty of indicators for a solid comeback campaign.
On Tuesday, Indians manager Manny Acta pointed to Lowe's pitch usage last season as a main contributor to his subpar showing with the Braves. Over the next six weeks of Spring Training, and in the coming year, Cleveland plans on working with Lowe on going back to some old habits.
First and foremost, the Tribe wants Lowe to feature his fastball more often.
"Some guys, at times without knowing, fall in love with certain pitches," Acta said, "and just get in some tendencies and just forget about No. 1 a little bit. He's not the only one. A lot of the players don't realize their pitch usage as a pitcher, or their tendencies as a hitter, until you point them out to them with stats."
Last season, the 38-year-old Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts for Atlanta, which traded the right-hander to Cleveland on Oct. 31. The Braves received Minor League reliever Chris Jones and agreed to pay $10 million of the $15 million Lowe is set to earn this season.
That showing came after Lowe went 45-33 with a 3.95 ERA combined over the 2008-10 seasons. During that same three-year period, the sinkerballer averaged only 56 walks per season -- compared to the 70 he issued last season.
As far as his pitch usage, Lowe turned to his sinker 50 percent of the time in 2011, according to fangraphs.com. That was down from 63.9 percent in 2010 and 67.6 percent in 2009. He featured his slider 25.3 percent of the time last year compared to just 16.1 percent in '10. Lowe's cutter percentage has climbed from 1.5 to 4.5 to 8.9 over the last three years.
Acta noted that the Indians have also identified some mechanical flaws that came up last year for Lowe. With those issues being tackled at the onset of Spring Training, the manager is convinced that Lowe can bounce back in a big way for the Tribe in the season ahead.
"He's going to go back to where he was before," Acta said. "He's very aware of what was going on mechanical- wise. If you put that together with the pitch usage, well obviously that would make a difference."
Lefty De La Cruz traded to Rangers
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians traded left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz to the Rangers on Tuesday in exchange for cash considerations.
De La Cruz was designated for assignment on Feb. 13 to vacate a spot on Cleveland's 40-man roster for recently-signed first baseman Casey Kotchman. The Indians signed Kotchman to a one-year contract worth $3 million earlier this month.
The 23-year-old De La Cruz spent last season with Double-A Akron -- his second year at that level in the Tribe's system. The lefty went 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 23 appearances, including 16 starts, in 2011 for the Aeros. De La Cruz struck out 95 and walked 57 over 86 innings.
Over the course of his six-year stay in the Indians' farm system, De La Cruz went 32-28 with a 4.21 ERA across 105 games (93 starts). Across 455 1/3 innings, the southpaw amassed 448 strikeouts against 247 walks.
Quote to note
"Lots of blood. I don't know why you need that much blood for testing. Maybe because the manager has to lead by example by giving away that much."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, joking about his physical on Tuesday
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall will be sporting No. 8 (the digit worn by his childhood hero, Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.) this year instead of No. 27, which he wore in 2011 with the Indians. Chisenhall said that he and second baseman Jason Kipnis had a "gentleman's bet" over the jersey number. The first to reach the Majors could wear No. 8. Chisenhall joined Cleveland on June 27 last year. Kipnis was given No. 22 after joining the Tribe on July 22. "He'll do just fine with '22,'" Chisenhall said with a smile.
The Indians are holding a minicamp for some of their top prospects in the days before Minor Leaguers are required to report to camp. Among those already on hand at the team's complex is shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft in June.
Manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti are currently working through two-on-one meetings with each pitcher and catcher. They held meetings on Tuesday and will continue to do so into Wednesday. Acta and Antonetti go over the goals and expectations for the coming season with each player. They will do the same when all the position players are in camp.
Pitchers and catchers underwent routine physical examinations on Tuesday at the player development complex. The first official workout for pitchers and catchers will be held on Wednesday. Position players are required to report to Arizona on Thursday, though most are already on hand.