GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are optimistic that Ubaldo Jimenez can regain his footing as one of baseball's aces with a strong showing this season. Cleveland is just asking the pitcher to do so from the rotation's second spot.
On Friday, Indians manager Manny Acta named sinkerballler Justin Masterson the club's Opening Day starter for the Tribe's April 5 home game against the Blue Jays. Jimenez will slide behind Masterson, but it is hardly viewed as any kind of demotion.
"He knows," Acta said. "He understands that, hey, his job is to be a No. 1 pitching out of the No. 2 spot."
Last July, Cleveland acquired Jimenez from Colorado as part of a five-player package that shipped prized pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to the Rockies. The Indians made the deal with the belief that Jimenez could right the wrongs of 2011 and regain his form from the previous season.
Under the circumstances, Jimenez was hardly offended to be passed over for Opening Day.
"I didn't have a good year and he did," Jimenez said. "He did a really good job. He deserves it. He earned that spot and I'm happy for him. He told me it's his first time getting Opening Day, so it's really exciting."
Overall last year, Jimenez went 10-13 with a 4.68 ERA in 32 starts between his time with the Rockies and Indians. After joining the Tribe, the right-hander went 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 appearances down the stretch. It was a far cry from his 2010 showing, when Jimenez went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA for Colorado.
Masterson, on the other hand, went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA last season, emerging as a workhorse for the Indians and one of the game's top young arms. Masterson said he was honored to receive the Opening Day nod, but he added that he would have been fine with Jimenez earning the job, too.
"If he gets it, hey, that's understandable for all that he's done," Masterson said. "But it's great that I've gotten that opportunity. Hopefully, I'll thrive and do the best that I can."
As for the rest of the rotation, Acta said the alignment of the Nos. 3-5 spots will likely be sorted out in the final 10 days or so of Spring Training. Derek Lower and Josh Tomlin will occupy two of the available spots, and the fifth job will come down to one of Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister.
"What we'll do is we'll wait until we know we can match them up the best way possible," Acta said. "And if somebody is behind a little bit, we can move them around. That's why you don't announce them this early. It's not about the order so much. It's about ... being able to cover yourself."
Perez hopes to resume throwing next week
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez is dealing with a case of cabin fever after spending the past week shuffling between the training room and the clubhouse.
Perez remains sidelined with a left oblique injury, and he is itching to gain clearance to resume throwing again. On Friday, the closer sounded optimistic that he might be able to take that step at some point next week.
"They haven't told me or anything," Perez said. "But that's how I see it going."
Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said that Perez's prediction is likely accurate, but it all depends on the pitcher's progress with his rehab. Perez has been doing light activities, adding more exercises each day, and he said he feels much improved since injuring his side during his first bullpen session of the spring.
Perez noted that one goal he had for this spring was to work on returning to the style of closing he displayed during his 2010 tour with the Tribe. He noted that he fell into the habit of trying to create contact when ahead in the count last season rather than trying to go for a strikeout.
He is considering trying to go back to his previous ways this year.
"Last year, I got in the mindset of just getting outs," Perez said. "Just get three outs. Just get the save. It doesn't matter if you get a strikeout or a popup, just get three outs. There were a lot of times where I had guys in 0-2, 1-2 counts and they still put balls in play, whereas a couple years ago, I would go for the strikeout.
"Obviously, I had a pretty successful year last year, but I worked around a lot of baserunners. I don't know if there is a best way to do it, but I need to have that mentality of putting people away, not just trying to get the outs."
Perez made the American League All-Star team last year and finished with a 3.32 ERA and 36 saves in 40 chances. In 59 2/3 innings, though, he gave up 6.9 hits per nine innings compared to 5.7 in 2010. Perez's strikeout rate also dropped to 5.9 per nine innings from 8.7 in 2010. Along the way, his walk rate remained nearly identical as the previous year.
It is an issue Perez wants to tackle this spring and throughout this season. For now, his focus is on continuing to pass the tests presented to him in his rehab process. As things currently stand, Cleveland remains optimistic that the closer will be recovered and ready in time for Opening Day -- as long as he can limit how often he sneezes.
Right now, Perez said that is the one thing that causes the most discomfort.
"You don't realize how much you sneeze until you have this injury," he said.
Carrasco on the Tommy John comeback trail
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After a lonely offseason spent training at the Indians' complex, Carlos Carrasco is happy to be in uniform and around his teammates again. That feeling tends to fade some when he then sees his fellow pitchers throwing with ease.
Carrasco is working his way back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and is in the early stages of the comeback trail. It is possible that he could return to game action late this season, but Cleveland might also take a conservative approach by keeping him out of the fold until 2013.
"It feels good to see the other guys I played with last year," Carrasco said. "That makes me feel strong. But it's not easy for me right now. I see everybody throwing and I can't be with the team this year. I'm just trying to relax. I know I have to wait a long ways to go.
"I'll be ready for the end of this year or maybe next year. I don't know yet."
Carrasco, who opened last season in the second spot within the Indians' rotation, has built up to throwing from a distance of 60 feet on flat ground. On Monday, he is hoping to increase his rounds of catch to 75 feet, with the goal of being able to throw from 90 feet by the end of the month.
To date, he said the only setback has been some minor soreness in his right shoulder, but the Indians' medical team told him that was a common part of the process. Last week, Carrasco was filmed while playing catch, and he has been comparing the footage to some from last season to analyze his mechanics.
Last season, the 24-year-old Carrasco -- acquired as part of the July 2009 trade that originally sent lefty Cliff Lee to the Phillies -- went 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 starts for the Indians. He landed on the disabled list in late April with right elbow inflammation, but the pitcher believes that was unrelated to the subsequent injury that led to surgery.
Carrasco was shelved for the remainder of the season on Aug. 4 before undergoing the Tommy John procedure on Sept. 21. The righty said he was examined by three different doctors before going ahead with the operation.
"The decision was a little bit hard," Carrasco said. "I'm just thinking about next year. I'm going to be out with the team. The most important thing right now is I feel good."
Quote to note
"I hope I can do a little better than how Rob did." -- Opening Day starter Justin Masterson, joking about Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who allowed 10 earned runs on Opening Day last season
The Indians open their Cactus League schedule with a game against the Reds at 3:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark. Tribe pitchers tentatively slated to appear include David Huff, Jeremy Accardo, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Chen-Chang Lee, Vinnie Pestano, Danny Salazar, Chris Seddon, Tyler Sturdevant and Robinson Tejeda.
Right-hander Justin Masterson, who was named the Indians' Opening Day starter on Friday, saw his rise up the rotation ranks begin down the stretch in 2010. Including his last four starts of that season, Masterson has gone 14-10 with a 3.05 ERA (81 earned runs in 239 innings) over his last 37 starts for Cleveland.
Outfielder Aaron Cunningham, who sat out the Tribe's intrasquad games on Wednesday and Thursday due to a sore left hand, took part in Friday's morning workout. Manager Manny Acta has indicated that Cunningham should be fine to play in Saturday's spring opener.