GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jack Hannahan is known throughout baseball as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game right now. That is all well and good, but the Indians' veteran infielder also wants to be respected as a hitter.
Hannahan firmly believes he turned a corner along those lines last season.
"Absolutely," Hannahan said on Monday morning at the Indians player development complex. "I figured something out last year, and I'm excited to start right where I finished. This game is all about confidence. If you get mentally strong and confident, it can take you a long way."
This spring, Hannahan is competing against Lonnie Chisenhall for the right to begin this season as Cleveland's starting third baseman. The Indians know Hannahan's glove can play at the big league level on a regular basis, but the team will use Spring Training to see if Hannahan's progress at the plate makes him the best choice.
In the second half last season, Hannahan switched to a heavier bat -- he went to a 35 1/2-inch, 33 1/2-ounce model after using a 34-inch, 31-ounce bat previously -- and it aided in some mechanical adjustments. The new bat forced Hannahan to start his swing earlier, and it made him rely more on using his hands.
"It forced me to get my foot down earlier and get in a position to hit," Hannahan explained. "It just never really clicked before. I've always been told that, but it never really clicked until I got that heavy bat in my hands to really feel it.
"I knew what I had to do. I just wasn't doing it until I got that big bat in my hands."
For his career, Hannahan has hit .231 in parts of five season in the Majors. Overall in 2011, he hit .250 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 110 games with the Tribe, but those numbers do not tell the true tale of his season.
Through July 6, the 32-year-old Hannahan was hitting just .213 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in his first 70 games with the Indians last season. Over his final 40 games, however, he hit at a .327 clip with three homers and 19 RBIs. Hannahan's performance was even greater in his last 25 games, in which he hit .368 down the stretch.
That strong finish gave Hannahan a great feeling heading into the winter months.
"It was huge," Hannahan said. "It's a huge confidence thing for me, as far as being inconsitent offensively and then being able to put together a good, solid second half. Hitting is all confidence. I had a lot of confidence going in that second half, and it carried over into the offseason. I'm expecting the same results this year."
Masterson not focused on pitching line
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With the knowledge that he will begin this season as the Indians' Opening Day starter, Justin Masterson can take the mound this spring with the idea of working on specific tasks rather than pitching purely for results.
On Monday, when Masterson made his Cactus League debut, the sinkerballer walked away pleased with what he accomplished, even though the results printed in the box score will not look pretty to Indians fans.
"If it was a bullpen session, I'd be very happy with it," Masterson quipped. "Overall, I was pretty happy with it."
In a 12-7 loss to the Reds, Masterson gave up six runs on five hits in just 1 1/3 innings, falling short of the two frames he was initially expected to throw. The big righty walked three hitters and struck out one, ending the afternoon was 45 pitches, including 25 for strikes.
Masterson was quick to note that he threw only fastballs in his outing, even in situations when he might have used a slider in the regular season. His goal for his first start of the spring was to focus on his command, and to also get a feel again for his signature sinker. His comfort level with the sinker still has a ways to go.
"Do you want a 1-10 scale? Zero to 100 percent?" Masterson said. "For the feel of it, we're about halfway there -- just nice and easy. It had some decent run today, and some didn't do what it was supposed to do. Overall, I'd say we're about halfway to having a good feel for it."
Indians manager Manny Acta had no issues with Masterson's outing.
"Masterson had good stuff for the first time out in Spring Training," Acta said. "Power guys, it usually takes them a little longer, but he wasn't that far off. He was barely missing, but they took advantage of the hitter's counts. I can't complain.
"He gave up those runs, but it wasn't like he had [catcher Carlos Santana] going back and forth like a goalie back there. I felt he was just off a little bit. It's the first game. He's not going to be using every pitch he's got in his arsenal. You live with it."
Last spring, Masterson had a similar start, allowing eight runs over his first 12 innings in Cactus League play. Overall, the right-hander went 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in Spring Training before cruising to a 5-0 record with a 2.18 ERA in April. On the season, Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in a breakout showing for the Tribe.
"It's the exact same spot I'm in every spring," Masterson joked. "So it's perfect."
Lowe hopes to get back that sinking feeling
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians starter Derek Lowe could not help but laugh a little at the questions fired his way after his first outing of the spring on Monday. After 15 years in the big leagues, Lowe felt a little silly breaking down his first two innings of work.
"I love Spring Training, trying to evaluate two innings," Lowe joked while rolling his eyes. "Unbelievable. I felt there was a nice breeze -- a northeasternly breeze."
Kidding aside, the 38-year-old Lowe did begin focusing on one of his spring goals within his brief showing in Monday's 12-7 loss to the Reds. This season, Lowe wants to get back to relying more on his sinker, which is the pitch that has brought him the bulk of his big league success.
Last year, when Lowe lost a National League-worst 17 games with the Braves, he got away from throwing as many sinkers as he has in previous seasons. The right-hander's mechanics were out of whack, and it took a toll on his command. As a result, Lowe felt in-game pressure to adjust, and threw more sliders and cutters than he had in the past.
"I kind of became a little breaking-ball happy over the last year," Lowe said. "I'll get back to throwing a lot more fastballs. I think it was out of necessity. I had pretty poor fastball command and so, when you're out there competing, you have to throw something you feel you can get them out with.
"It's not something you want to do. You're almost forced into it."
Lowe -- acquired by Cleveland in a trade with Atlanta over the offseason -- was sharp in his spring debut with his new team. Over two innings, Lowe blanked Cincinnati's lineup, creating four groundouts and ending with one strikeout. Only one hitter -- Reds third baseman Scott Rolen -- hit a ball beyond the infield, flying out to left field.
"I think he's on a mission to prove that he's got some baseball left in there," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He had a rough last month of the season last year, but he's shown up to our camp with a lot of enthusiasm, and he looks good. He's a guy that every day brings a lot of energy."
Indians still communicating with Hernandez
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians do not know when Roberto Hernandez will be able to rejoin the team or its rotation, but that has not stopped the ballclub from coordinating with the pitcher on weekly baseball workouts this spring.
On Monday, Indians manager Manny Acta acknowledged that Cleveland has sent Hernandez -- formerly Fausto Carmona -- a detailed program to follow while he remains in the Dominican Republic. Hernandez was arrested on Jan. 19 on charges of using a false identity and is currently dealing with legal and visa obstacles to joining the Indians stateside as a result.
"I talk to him all the time," Acta said. "He's keeping himself in shape. That's his job. He's getting himself ready so that, if anything changes, he's going to come over here and not miss a beat. He's doing everything. Once things went down, that's one thing we addressed with him."
Acta said Hernandez has been throwing in bullpen sessions and simulated games over the past couple of weeks. The manager noted that the pitcher logged one inning of work against hitters at the team's academy in the Dominican Republic on Monday.
As things stand right now, the Indians' rotation projects to include Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. With Hernandez out of the picture for the time being, Cleveland is holding a spring competition for the fifth spot, with Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister in the running.
"We've got four slots taken already," Acta said, "and the posibility of Roberto joining us at some point. So we feel pretty good."
Last month, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing anonymous sources, reported that the Department of Homeland Security is expected to grant Hernandez a waiver to join the Indians at some point before camp breaks on April 2. It is possible that the starting pitcher might then face a suspension from Major League Baseball.
Acta would not comment on the possibility of having Hernandez back with the team before the end of Spring Training. Hernandez is currently on MLB's restricted list, so he is ineligible for pay and does not count against Cleveland's 40-man roster at the moment.
"We're optimistic that he's going to come," Acta said. "When? We don't know."
The Indians lost, 5-2, to the White Sox in an unofficial "B" game on Monday morning at the Tribe's spring complex. Left-hander Chris Seddon started for Cleveland and finished with four strikeouts and two hits allowed in two shutout innings. The only other pitcher from big league camp to appear was Danny Salazar, who allowed one run on one hit with one walk in his only inning of work.
Offensive performances worth noting from Monday's "B" game against the White Sox: outfielder Aaron Cunningham went 1-for-4 with one RBI; infielder Andy LaRoche went 1-for-4 with one run scored; outfielder Trevor Crowe went 1-for-2; first baseman Matt LaPorta went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts; and outfielder Fred Lewis went 0-2 with two walks.
Indians relievers did not fare too well in Monday's 12-7 loss to the Reds. Lefty Tony Sipp, who is a virtual lock to make the Opening Day bullpen, gave up two runs in his first official inning of spring work. Righty Dan Wheeler, who is competing for one of the two available jobs, gave up four runs on four hits in one inning of relief.
Indians Minor League right-hander Austin Adams, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, has been sidelined for much of the early portion of Spring Training due to soreness in his throwing shoulder. Adams said he was able to resume a throwing program on Thursday.
Quote to note
"I've been fortunate to be with teams that you feel have a chance to win. That's the only reason why you play, is to win, especially the older you get. You want to win, but who doesn't? I've never heard a guy say, 'I'd love to lose this year. God, I hope we stink. That'd be awesome. Nothing like a miserable six months.'" --Indians starter Derek Lowe