GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Center fielder Michael Brantley is optimistic that the right hamstring injury that has him sidelined will not persist to the point of him missing Opening Day for the Indians.
"It's nothing serious," Brantley said on Thursday morning at the Tribe's player development complex. "I look forward to getting back out there very soon. It's something that's just a little minor bump in the road."
Brantley exited Monday's home game against the Angels in the second inning after tweaking the hamstring while running out a grounder in his first at-bat. The center fielder said tightness flared in his leg while heading up the first-base line, and he knew immediately it was more than a cramp.
Cleveland's medical staff advised Brantley to leave the contest, and he is now in a three-to-five day shut-down period from baseball activities. Brantley indicated he resumed some exercise activity Thursday, but the Indians are having him work through a conservative return to baseball drills.
"It's better to be cautious at this point," Brantley said. "In Spring Training, the obvious goal for everybody in this locker room is to get out of here healthy. That's it -- be ready to go for the season. That's what I look forward to doing. Everything's going great right now."
The Indians want to take every precaution with Brantley, considering the club is already short center fielder Grady Sizemore. Earlier this spring, Sizemore underwent surgery on his lower back, which will require at least two or three months of rehab and recovery. In the meantime, Brantley is in the plans as Cleveland's leadoff man and center fielder.
Brantley, who hit .266 with seven homers and 46 RBIs in an injury-hindered season for the Indians a year ago, has been pleased with his progress in the batter's box this spring. Through 10 Cactus League games, he has hit .280 with three doubles, one triple, four walks, four RBIs and a .367 on-base percentage.
"I was feeling great," Brantley said. "I was feeling comfortable and putting up good at-bats. I'm seeing the ball really well this spring, which I'm really the most proud of. I'm really slowing down the ball, so I'm able to swing at quality strikes and not expand the zone too much. I look forward to keeping it going."
Ubaldo's sharp start a step in right direction
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ubaldo Jimenez understands that there are plenty of people worrying about his ability to be pitching at a high level come the start of the season. The Indians starter is a key part of the ballclub and his spring has been sporadic in terms of success.
Jimenez is doing all he can to calm everyone's nerves.
"It's hard to believe," Jimenez said after logging four solid innings against the Padres in Thursday afternoon's 9-4 win. "But I know what I have in me. I know that I'm 100 percent and I know that I'm going to be ready for the season."
Jimenez said he offered a similar message in a chat this week with Tribe manager Manny Acta. Following his previous start, during which the right-hander allowed six runs and walked four in just 3 2/3 innings against the Reds on Saturday, Acta made it clear that the Indians hoped to see improvement soon from Jimenez.
The pitcher wanted Acta to know there was nothing to worry about.
"We were talking a little bit -- me and Manny," said Jimenez, who is coming back from a down year in which he was traded to the Indians by the Rockies. "I was like, 'This is Spring Training. I'm going to be ready for the season. That's when it counts.' It's probably a little bit hard to believe, because of the kind of game that I had the last game.
"It's an obvious thing that everybody is going to be worrying about. Once they see you having that kind of game, and probably not having a lot of velocity on your arm ... they worry. It's your job as a player to let them know, 'I'm good. I'm ready. I'm going to be ready.'"
Jimenez looked much sharper against San Diego, though he still labored some with commanding his fastball and curveball. Over four innings, the righty gave up one run on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Jimenez logged 76 pitches (43 strikes) and registered eight three-ball counts and seven first-pitch strikes among the 17 batters he faced.
The lone run came courtesy of a long leadoff home run in the fourth inning by Padres third baseman Chase Headley. After that blast, Jimenez needed only 11 pitches (nine strikes) to work through the rest of the frame unscathed.
"I felt much better than my last start," said Jimenez, who sat between 92-95 mph with his fastball. "I think I was more aggressive. I still have a lot of things to improve like getting ahead in the count and staying ahead. I had too many 3-1, 3-2 counts. That's something that I need to improve. Hopefully, in the next two games I get there."
McAllister among four roster cuts by Indians
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have whittled the competition for the rotation's lone vacancy to three pitchers.
On Thursday, Cleveland trimmed its roster by four players, including right-hander Zach McAllister. The Indians optioned McAllister -- initially billed as one of four candidates for the fifth starter job -- to Triple-A Columbus.
"He just needs to continue to be consistent with his secondary pitches," manager Manny Acta said, "and with the progress he has made over the last year and a half. We are extremely happy with the progress he has made. He's a guy that we feel is going to be dependable in the near future for our rotation."
The Tribe also optioned infielder Cord Phelps to Columbus on Thursday morning. Right-hander Chen-Chang Lee and outfielder Trevor Crowe were reassigned to Minor League camp as well, shaving the number of players in camp down to 46 with two weeks left until Opening Day.
McAllister, 24, was up against Jeanmar Gomez, Kevin Slowey and David Huff for the one available rotation job this spring. In three Cactus League outings, McAllister posted a 4.50 ERA with six strikeouts and one walk over six innings. Last season, the righty went 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA at Triple-A and 0-1 with a 6.11 ERA in a four-start stint with the Indians.
Phelps, who hit .294 in 97 games at Columbus and only .155 in a 35-game stop with Cleveland last year, appeared in 11 games for the Indians this spring. A second baseman by trade, Phelps hit .167 (2-for-12) in that span.
Crowe -- after missing most of last season with a right shoulder injury -- hit .385 (5-for-13) with two stolen bases in 13 Cactus League games for the Tribe this spring. He was removed from the 40-man roster over the offseason, but he was extended a late non-roster invitation to attend Spring Training.
The right-handed Lee, who won the Indians' Bob Feller Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor last season, could be an option for the Tribe's bullpen at some point this season. In 2011, he went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. This spring, Lee posted a 3.86 ERA in six apperances for the Indians.
Quote to note
"I want to play every day I can. It's a setback if I miss one day, in my opinion. But, at the same time, I'll be ready to go. In three to five days -- if that's what they said -- I can't wait to be out there for however many days I have left." -- Indians center fielder Michael Brantley
On Thursday, the Indians noted that pitcher Rick VandenHurk has requested to be referred to by his given name of Henricus. Cleveland claimed the pitcher off waivers from the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He is expected to be in camp with his new club on Friday.
Closer Chris Perez felt fine on Thursday, one day after testing out his recovering left oblique in a 20-pitch live batting practice session. Perez will likely appear in his first Cactus League game of the spring on either Friday or Saturday.
Indians manager Manny Acta noted that right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who remains on Major League Baseball's restricted list, is slated to throw an 80-pitch simulated game on Friday at Cleveland's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. Acta said there was nothing else to report on Hernandez's ongoing legal and visa troubles.
Indians utility man Jason Donald got his first taste of the outfield on Thursday afternoon. With Michael Brantley nursing a sore right hamstring, Donald got the nod in center field against the Padres. Donald is normally an infielder, but the Tribe wants to get a look at him as an outfielder to see if he is a realistic backup option.