GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It might only be Spring Training, but there was still a certain level of excitement at Goodyear Ballpark when The Big U was asked to face The Big A in the first inning on Thursday afternoon.
Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez and Angels slugger Albert Pujols are familiar with one another from their days in the National League. This, however, was the first time they were able to square off as American League opponents.
"You don't want to look bad," Jimenez said with a wide smile. "So, you probably put a little bit more on the fastball."
Even though it was just a Cactus League showdown, Jimenez admitted to being fired up.
"I like the challenge," Jimenez said. "He's a really tough challenge. Ideally, you don't want to face him with the bases loaded or anything like that, but it's fun."
Pujols showed off his power when he yanked a pitch from Jimenez deep into foul territory down the left-field line, where it cleared a funnel cake stand and left the ballpark. Jimenez eventually issued an eight-pitch walk to Pujols as part of a 31-pitch first inning, during which the righty labored to control his sinker.
Jimenez allowed two runs -- both in the first inning -- on two hits in his two innings of work. In all, he threw 39 pitches, including 19 for strikes. Jimenez noted that he stuck only with fastballs, splitters and one curveball. He does not plan on working in all of his pitches until he gets comfortable with his fastball location.
"The first inning my fastball was moving way too much," he explained. "I didn't have good control of the fastball. When I tried to throw it low, it was too low."
Jimenez, who blames his early-season health woes for his struggles last year, added that he was thrilled to get through his second Spring Training outing feeling strong. A year ago with Colorado, Jimenez injuried his right thumb in his second outing. The starter also dealt with a nagging groin injury.
Sizemore focused on yet another comeback
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As a variety of injuries have continued to pile up over the past few years for center fielder Grady Sizemore, his motivation to prove that he can return to full strength and rejoin the Indians has increased.
"The longer you're away from the game," Sizemore said on Thursday morning, "the more you want to get back. It's frustrating, and it's hard to watch the guys out here playing and having fun."
Sizemore stopped by the Indians player development complex on Thursday and spoke for the first time since undergoing surgery on his lower back on March 1. He is expected to miss at least two or three months.
Before Spring Training officially began for Cleveland, Sizemore tweaked his back while fielding ground balls as part of his rehab from a right knee injury. The outfielder suffered damage to a disk in his lower back, which in turn caused nerve issues that led to decreased feeling and strength in his left leg.
Sizemore attempted to alleviate the issue through a conservative rehab process, but a lack of improvement prompted the decision to go ahead with the surgery.
"After the surgery, from what the doctor said, it was the right thing to do," he said. " ... This way, we at least fixed the problem and I can come back as soon as possible. We didn't want to waste six to eight weeks trying to rehab it and then find out I still need surgery."
Right now, Sizemore's rehab includes strengthening his left leg. It will take some time before he resumes exercises that focus on strengthening his core and lower back. Sizemore's right knee rehab will be included in the eight- to 12-week recovery process as well.
"I've had a lot of obstacles to overcome here, a lot of injuries," Sizemore said. "But that's part of the problem. You injure part of your body and you try to rush to get back. In baseball, you don't have a lot of down time. It's a small offseason, so when you have major surgeries and rush those things, a lot of times you can hurt other parts of your body.
"I'm not saying that's what happened here, but when you have bad knees and you're trying to recover from that, you kind of put stress on other areas of your body. It's one of those things where I have to get to this point where I can play at 100 percent and not try to play at 85 percent or 90 percent and risk injuring other parts of my body."
Through it all, Sizemore is trying to stay optimistic about his chances of returning within the announced recovery period.
"All the doctors I talked to said there's a great chance that I'll fully recover," Sizemore said. "There's not a lot of risk, but the recovery part of it is kind of all based on you. Everyone is different. The rehab progresses as long as you're able to do it. It's kind of how strong you are and how you're moving. So, it's not set in stone."
Kipnis making sweet music on field
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Kipnis insists that he is not a one-hit wonder.
During Wednesday's 10-2 Indians win over the D-backs, Kipnis was one of the handful of players who were mic'd up for MLB Network's broadcast. In the home half of the second inning, the young second baseman softly broke into song, putting his own spin on Adele's "Someone Like You."
Kipnis said on Thursday he often sings to himself while in the field.
"There's literally a bunch of times that no one notices," Kipnis said. "I'll just be singing under my breath. I don't want to get too loud and be distracting other people. I don't need [first baseman Casey] Kotchman staring at me and wondering what the heck is going on or what this kid is doing.
"It's just something that I always do. It keeps me relaxed and loose out there."
It was easy to think that Kipnis was just enjoying the spotlight during the national broadcast, especially given what he posted on Twitter earlier in the day. @TheJK_Kid tweeted, "Wearin a Mic for today's game.. Gotta go warm up the vocals! Always singin but now I got an audience! #nervous #timeforsomeadele."
The performance was clearly premeditated, but Kipnis said that was only because he saw an online video early Wednesday that showed a New York subway performer singing the same song while awaiting a train.
"I knew what song was already in my head," Kipnis said with a laugh. "So I knew that was going to be coming out at some point during the game."
As for being mic'd up, Kipnis said, "It was cool. I wouldn't say I would do it every single game, because it definitely limits your communication between teammates and the coaches, too. ... At the same time, I saw a couple clips, and it's cool hearing the crack of the bat that close. It's cool hearing the slides and all that stuff."
Of course, fans also got to hear Kipnis' attempt at a music career.
"You get to embarrass yourself in front of a national audience, too," he said with a laugh. "That's another one of the perks."
Quote to note
"This is like being in heaven for me." -- Ubaldo Jimenez, on being with the Indians and not the Rockies
Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez, who had been dealing with soreness in his throwing shoulder, worked through a bullpen session without any issues on Thursday. Perez should be able to make his Cactus League debut in the near future.
Right-hander Robinson Tejeda, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, has been sidelined for much of the past week due to a strained right calf. Tejeda resumed playing catch on flat ground during Thursday's morning workout.
Indians Minor League catcher Chun Chen rolled his right ankle while jogging during Thursday's morning workout. Chen is wearing a protective medical boot and is considered day to day with a sprained ankle.
Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez logged two shutout innings during Thursday's game against the Angels. He ended with two hits allowed, two walks and one strikeout. Gomez is competing with Kevin Slowey and David Huff for the fifth rotation job.