GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The chances of first baseman Matt LaPorta making the Indians' Opening Day roster appear slim, but manager Manny Acta is not ready to rule anything out as Spring Training begins for the ballclub.
On Wednesday, Acta noted that LaPorta is in the mix for a bench job as a backup first baseman, left fielder and designated hitter. LaPorta was Cleveland's primary first baseman for the past two seasons, but the team signed veteran Casey Kotchman over the winter to assume that role.
"Matty comes here to compete for that [bench] spot at first base," Acta said. "He's coming into Spring Training in a good spot attitude-wise. He understands the situation and he's accepting the challenge. He has to come in and obviously show that he has improved the quality of his at-bats."
LaPorta's primary competition for that backup job is Shelley Duncan, who also hits right-handed and can play first, left field and DH. One difference between the two players is Duncan is out of Minor League options and LaPorta has one option remaining. That means LaPorta can be sent to Triple-A Columbus without first needing to clear waivers.
Last year, LaPorta hit .247 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 107 games for the Indians. In 2010, the first baseman labored through an injury-hindered campaign to the tune of a .221 average across 110 games. LaPorta was a key component of the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.
"None of us have given up on Matt," Acta said. "At any given time, Matt can turn it up and become a menace at the plate."
Masterson enters camp with no restrictions
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Masterson has not been told if he will be starting on Opening Day for the Indians, but the big sinkerballer can at least rest easy knowing he heads into Spring Training with no restrictions after offseason shoulder surgery.
"I'm all locked and loaded," Masterson said on Wednesday, when the Tribe's pitchers and catchers held their first official workout of the spring.
Fortunately for the Indians, the operation Masterson needed over the winter involved his left, non-throwing shoulder. It is his right arm that has helped the pitcher emerge as a staff leader and a candidate to start the season opener against the Blue Jays on April 5 in Cleveland.
Masterson underwent an arthroscopic procedure -- performed by Dr. Craig Morgan in Wilmington, Del. -- to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder on Oct. 12. It is an issue that dates back to Masterson's days with the Red Sox. The pitcher had a cyst operated on in 2007 and knew the labrum issue would likely flare up at some point.
Masterson, who went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA over 34 starts for the Tribe last season, noted that the left shoulder pain was an problem during his final start of 2011. In that Sept. 23 outing against the Twins, he issued a season-high six walks and exited after throwing 106 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.
In five September starts, Masterson went 2-2 with a 5.65 ERA for the Indians.
"I guess it could've had an effect on some other things," Masterson said. "The last one, it was hard to lift the shoulder. I dealt with it four or five years ago. It's not something you can't work through."
That said, Masterson is happy to have the latest surgery behind him and is ready for a full Spring Training with the Indians. The starter was actually able to begin his winter throwing program earlier than in past offseasons and he indicated that he quickly regained flexibility in his left arm.
"The process went well," Masterson said. "There's really no restrictions. It's been fine. There's been no issues. It's been good."
Tribe unable to complete deal with Garland
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians' deal with free-agent pitcher Jon Garland is off.
On Wednesday, MLB.com learned that the Tribe will not be signing Garland to a Minor League contract as the club had originally hoped. An agreement with the pitcher was in place last week, but he did not take a physical with the team on Monday as initially scheduled.
Garland is still working through a rehab program for his right shoulder and he was not in a position to compete for a job with Cleveland this spring.
The Indians and Garland agreed to a Minor League contract on Feb. 13, and the deal would have included a non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club. The right-hander was presumed to be a possible candidate for Cleveland's vacant fifth-starter's role.
Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister are the top four candidates for the lone vacancy in the rotation this spring. The top four spots (in no particular order) will be occupied by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe.
Garland's 2,083 1/3 innings and 132 wins since 2000 rank 12th and 16th, respectively, among all Major League pitchers. The 32-year-old went 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA in nine outings with the Dodgers last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in July.
Over the course of 12 seasons in the Majors, Garland has had stints with the White Sox, Angels, D-backs, Padres and Dodgers. He is 132-119 overall with a 4.32 ERA across 353 games. He has won at least 12 games in a season seven times and has topped 190 innings nine times.
Quote to note
"I'm a sports guy and I respect every sport, but wasn't that beautiful? The crack of a fungo bat. A white ball rolling over green grass. A pitcher covering first base. And then watching the bullpen sessions. That was beautiful."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, on the team's first official workout
Indians position players are required to report to Arizona on Thursday. As of Wednesday, the only players not in camp were outfielders Trevor Crowe and Felix Pie, as well as first baseman Casey Kotchman. Position players take physicals on Friday and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Saturday.
Indians manager Manny Acta said that infielder Jason Donald is a "leading candidate" to earn a utility role off the Tribe's bench. Donald hits right-handed, can play multiple infield positions and, later this spring, might see some action in the outfield.
Indians closer Chris Perez said on Wednesday that he does not plan on working on a changeup this spring. Perez did so last Spring Training and it led to some right forearm issues. "It got me off on the wrong foot," Perez said.
Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and his wife welcomed a baby boy, named Cutter, into their family in January.