Indians add depth to bullpen with VandenHurk
Right-hander, 26, claimed off waivers from Blue Jays
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians added another arm to the pitching staff on Wednesday, claiming right-hander Rick VandenHurk off waivers from the Blue Jays.
With some question marks surrounding Cleveland's bullpen situation, the Tribe plans on throwing VandenHurk into the mix for one of the available relief roles. Over the offseason, the right-hander nearly signed with the Indians.
"I did also talk to Cleveland," VandenHurk told reporters before leaving Toronto's camp in Florida. "They were very interested, so I'm not overly surprised. I haven't really talked to them yet, so I have to wait and see what they tell me."
The Indians have two of their regular relievers -- closer Chris Perez and lefty Rafael Perez -- working their way back from injuries. On Wednesday, Chris Perez (strained left oblique) threw a live batting-practice session and Rafael Perez (left shoulder soreness) was scheduled to appear in his first Cactus League game.
Cleveland is optimistic about their chances of being ready in time for Opening Day, but having more depth can act as a kind of insurance policy. Beyond the ongoing health woes, the Indians have also had subpar performances for the most part this spring from the handful of candidates for the two available bullpen jobs.
Arms in the mix include Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo and Robinson Tejeda. Herrmann, Hagadone and now VandenHurk are the only pitchers in that group who are on the 40-man roster. Potentially complicating matters is the fact that VandenHurk is out of Minor League options.
To clear room on their 40-man roster for VandenHurk, the Indians designated lefty Kelvin De La Cruz for assignment -- for the second time this spring. Cleveland initially designated De La Cruz before trading him to Texas on Feb. 21. The Tribe reacquired De La Cruz on March 15 for cash considerations.
VandenHurk, 26, has pitched in parts of five big leagues seasons with the Marlins and Orioles, going 8-10 with a 5.97 ERA in 46 games (35 starts). The righty spent the bulk of the 2011 season with Triple-A Norfolk, where he went 9-13 with a 4.43 ERA. He signed a big league contract with Toronto on Feb. 22 after being released by Baltimore.
This spring, VandenHurk has a 9.95 ERA in four Grapefruit League games. He has three strikeouts, six walks and 10 hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings.
"I had a challenging spring," VandenHurk said. "They had to make a decision. They made a decision and Cleveland picked me up."
Indians being patient with Kipnis, Chisenhall
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Strike-zone discipline has been an issue this spring for young infielders Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, but Cleveland is exercising patience when it comes to the evaluation of a handful of Cactus League plate appearances.
"It's kind of hard to work and evaluate that when those guys are not going out there every single day," manager Manny Acta said. "At the beginning of camp, it was every other day. Now, you're trying to find playing time for the other guys.
"It's a process for them. They're young kids. They're not going to get better at it overnight. We're going to have to be patient."
During Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Giants, Kipnis went 0-for-3 with one strikeout, while Chisenhall went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. Kipnis (Cleveland's starting second baseman) and Chisenhall (a candidate for the everyday role at third) each have 12 strikeouts with just one walk apiece on the spring.
Kipnis has hit .229 in 35 at-bats and Chisenhall has posted a .214 average in 28 at-bats.
The issue of plate discipline was more of a focus for Chisenhall when Spring Training began, given his drastic drop-off in on-base percentage in the Majors compared with the Minors last season. After posting a .353 on-base percentage for Triple-A Columbus early last year, the third baseman managed only a .284 mark on the big league stage.
Overall, Chisenhall hit .255 with 49 strikeouts against eight walks in 66 games for the Indians in 2011. Kipnis, on the other hand, hit .272 with a .333 on-base percentage, drawing 11 walks and striking out 34 times in his 36 games for the Tribe last season.
"I think Jason has shown," Acta said, "the time he was here last year, that he's patient enough at the plate and he'll be able to get his walks and do some other stuff. Hopefully, neither one of them are getting in their own head about grabbing a job here."
Brantley to be shut down for three to five days
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are already short one center fielder as Opening Day approaches. Cleveland is now doing everything it can to ensure that its replacement is healthy and ready for the start of the season.
On Wednesday, manager Manny Acta indicated that a right hamstring injury will keep Michael Brantley -- the club's center fielder with Grady Sizemore sidelined for at least two months after lower back surgery -- shut down for three to five days before he is cleared for resuming baseball activities.
"He showed up [on Tuesday's off-day] and was a lot better than they were anticipating," Acta said. "But, still, it's probably three to five days."
The Indians are taking a cautious approach to try to make sure that Brantley will be recovered in time for Opening Day. When the outfielder is allowed to resume workouts, he will likely progress through a conservative hitting and running program prior to playing in games again.
The timetable for Brantley's return to Cactus League action is not immediately clear.
Through 10 games, Brantley has hit .280 (7for-25) with three doubles, one triple, four walks and four RBIs. He projects to open this season as the leadoff man and regular center fielder until Sizemore's eventual return from his back injury.
Quote to note
"If you look at the way Jeanmar's been throwing, it's tough not to say, man, that guy's really getting the job done." --Right-hander Kevin Slowey, on fellow fifth-starter candidate Jeanmar Gomez
Indians Opening Day starter Justin Masterson pitched in a Triple-A game on Wednesday instead of the Tribe's Cactus League contest. In four innings against the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, Masterson logged 81 pitches.
Shelley Duncan, who is competing for the starting job in left field, launched his team-leading fourth home run of the spring in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Giants. Duncan -- a likely part of the Opening Day roster in some capacity -- is hitting .231 in 11 spring games.
Infielder Jose Lopez went 1-for-1 with an RBI single off the bench on Wednesday. Lopez, who is competing for a utility bench job as a non-roster invitee this spring, is hitting .440 (11-for-25) with seven RBIs in 12 games.
Right-hander Jeremy Accardo, who is in camp on a non-roster invitation, turned in another shutout inning on Wednesday. Accardo has a 1.50 ERA over six innings in six appearances this spring.