GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nearly two weeks into the spring schedule, the Indians still do not have a clear sense about who will fill the two openings in their bullpen.
"It's not a secret," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Those guys haven't pitched very well."
The list of bullpen candidates includes Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Jeremy Accardo, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray and Robinson Tejeda. Herrmann and Hagadone are on the Indians' 40-man roster, while the other four relief options are in camp as non-roster invitees.
During Thursday's 12-3 win over the White Sox, four of the candidates made appearances for the Tribe, and the the results were inconsistent once again. Combined against Chicago, Herrmann, Wheeler, Accardo and Ray allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits over four innings of work.
Overall in Cactus League play this spring, the six bullpen candidates have posted an 8.31 ERA in 26 innings of work. They have yielded 24 earned runs on 43 hits with 19 strikeouts and six walks. Accardo and Hagadone have been the best of the bunch -- each having a 1.80 ERA over five innings of work.
"With a lot of those guys, we're relying on track record," Acta said. "If they're healthy, and we have plenty of outings left for them to prove that they're healthy and they can be successful, then we'll make a decision based on that. It's a different case than some of the young kids that came to camp, just invited or Minor League free agents.
"We're talking about guys like Wheeler and a guy like Ray and Accardo. They have pitched successfully in the big leagues before, so you kind of give them a little bit more rope before we make a decision on them. If they're healthy and their stuff is there, up until the last day you give them the opportunity to see if they can contribute."
Acta added that any opt-out clauses in the pitchers' contracts will not play a big role in the roster decisions at the end of camp.
Wheeler would be line to earn a $100,000 bonus and a June 1 opt-out clause if he is not on the active roster five days before Opening Day. Accardo can also ask to be released if he is not on the roster by June 1. Ray's deal allows him to request to be released if he is not on Cleveland's 40-man roster by April 3.
"That's not going to put pressure on me or [general manager Chris Antonetti]," Acta said. "If you're not getting people out, you can take that route."
Acta: Santana to serve as everyday catcher
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta plans on avoiding a situation where certain pitchers are paired with a specific catcher. The playing time behind the plate this season will be based on who is on the mound for the opposition.
"It's not going to be about who's on the mound for us," Acta explained.
Carlos Santana is in line to receive the bulk of the playing time behind the plate this season, with backup catcher Lou Marson garnering most of starts against left-handed pitching. On days Marson catches, the switch-hitting Santana can serve as either a designated hitter or first baseman.
Last season, when first base became a kind of revolving door for the Tribe, Santana stepped out from behind the plate more often than expected. The result led to a few cases where Marson caught the majority of the games for a few of the starting pitchers. Acta does not envision a similar scenario this year, with Casey Kotchman signed to be the everyday first baseman.
"Last year, I was able to do more because of the first-base situation," Acta said. "This year is a different story. We do have a first baseman, so Carlos is going to be our everyday guy [at catcher]. We're just going to get Lou in there when we can, when we feel Carlos deserves a [rest] and when we feel the matchup is right for Lou."
Marson was the primary catcher for starters Ubaldo Jimenez (10 pairings), Roberto Hernandez (19) and Carlos Carrasco (13) during the 2011 season. Santana caught most of the games started by Justin Masterson (22) and Josh Tomlin (24).
Asked if some of the pitchers might be more comfortable with one catcher over the other, Acta cracked a smile.
"It's not about being comfortable," Acta said. "It's about winning ballgames. I'd rather sleep on a very uncomfortable bed if I'm promised that I'm going to win 100 games."
Tribe re-acquires familiar face in De La Cruz
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz will not need directions to the Indians' complex. The Minor League pitcher has been there plenty of times.
On Thursday, the Indians acquired De La Cruz from the Rangers in exchange for cash considerations. Texas landed the lefty for the same on Feb. 21 after Cleveland designated him for assignment.
To clear a spot on their 40-man roster for De La Cruz, the Indians placed right-hander Carlos Carrasco on the 60-day disabled list. Carrasco is expected to miss most or all of the 2012 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
De La Cruz was designated for assignment on Feb. 13 to vacate a spot on Cleveland's 40-man roster for first baseman Casey Kotchman, who signed a one-year contract worth $3 million to suit up for the Tribe.
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 southpaw 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 has gone 32-28 with a 4.21 ERA across 105 games (93 starts). Across 455 1/3 innings, he has amassed 448 strikeouts against 247 walks.
De La Cruz pitched one scoreless inning for the Rangers this spring.
Indians begin process of trimming roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the Indians approach the midpoint of the Spring Training schedule, the time has come to start trimming the roster.
On Thursday, Cleveland reduced its spring volume by four players, optioning pitchers Scott Barnes and Danny Salazar, as well as outfielders Thomas Neal and Nick Weglarz, to the Minor Leagues. Barnes, Neal and Weglarz were sent to Triple-A Columbus, while Salazar was placed on Class A Carolina's roster.
After re-acquiring left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz, the Indians now have 56 players in camp with the big league club.
Barnes impressed the Indians' brass this spring with seven shutout innings between three Cactus League appearances. The lefty went 8-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season before suffering a season-ending left knee injury. Barnes could figure into Cleveland's plans during the upcoming season.
Neal -- acquired in a trade with the Giants last July -- and Weglarz are each coming off injury-hindered campaigns. Dealing with a variety of health woes, Neal hit .289 with two home runs, 14 doubles and 26 RBIs in 70 games for Triple-A Fresno (Giants) and Columbus in 2011. Weglarz hit .179 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 41 games at Double-A Akron last year.
Salazar, who spent last season rehabbing from reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, pitched in one game this spring. He allowed six runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Quote to note
"He's an interesting guy. He's a pretty advanced bat. You can tell that if he goes down to Triple-A, he's just going to crush it again." --Indians manager Manny Acta, on Russ Canzler
Indians closer Chris Perez, who has been sidelined for the past three weeks with a strained left oblique, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday. The Tribe remains hopeful that Perez will be ready in time for Opening Day.
Indians manager Manny Acta noted that first baseman Casey Kotchman (tightness in his lower back) was able to hit in a soft-toss session during Thursday's workout. Kotchman remains day to day, though it is unclear when he will be cleared to resume playing in games.
Indians relievers Rafael Perez (sore left shoulder) and Robinson Tejeda (right calf strain) continue to make progress in their respective throwing programs. Both pitchers threw for seven minutes in live batting practice on Thursday, and both are nearing a return to game action.
The Indians announced on Thursday that their Opening Day game against the Blue Jays on April 5 is sold out. Cleveland has now enjoyed 20 consecutive sellouts for its home openers. This season marks the 112th in the American League for the Tribe.