GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Jason Donald outfield experiment could influence the way the Indians align their bench come Opening Day. Cleveland wants a backup outfielder capable of handling center field and the club is taking a hard look at Donald.
On Friday, Donald got the nod in center for the second game in a row for the Indians, who hosted the Angels. Donald is a virtual lock to break camp with the big league club as a utility infielder, but the Tribe is seeing if expanding his role is a realistic option.
"I need to see more," manager Manny Acta said. "It gives us more flexibility to get creative at the end if we have to. We need to see more of him. I think he's going to play more center field going forward."
Donald is getting an opportunity to man center right now due to Michael Brantley -- Cleveland's starter at that position -- still being a few days away from returning to games following a right hamstring injury. The Tribe's other backup center-field options (Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs and Felix Pie) have labored offensively this spring.
The Indians like Donald's versatility and the fact that he offers a right-handed bat off the bench to back up a lefty-heavy lineup. He can man second base, shortstop and third in the infield and hit .377 against left-handed pitching last season. Overall in 2011, following a battle with a handful of injuries, Donald hit .318 in 39 games with Cleveland.
As for having the chance to play some outfield, Donald said he is embracing the challenge.
"I take it as a compliment from Manny and from [general manager Chris Antonetti]," Donald said. "They brought this up to me. I think I'm in a better spot than if they said they just wanted me as a utility infielder. I take it as a big compliment because they're working to try to get me in the lineup and I'm more than happy to do it.
"I've said it from Day 1, I'm happy to do it. However I can get on the field, more importantly, however I can help us matchup-wise and create problems for other teams, that's definitely something I want to do."
Donald looked solid in his debut in center field on Thursday, but he experienced some growing pains on Friday night. In the seventh inning against the Angels, Donald took a bad route on a ball hit into the right-center gap by Maicer Izturis. The baseball skipped by him, rolling to the wall for a triple.
Tribe to quickly throw new arm into bullpen mix
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Henricus van den Hurk was able to use Friday afternoon to get familiar with his new surroundings and introduce himself to his new Indians teammates. His audition for Cleveland's bullpen could wait another day.
Come Saturday, when the Tribe takes on the Dodgers, the Indians will throw van den Hurk -- a native of Eindhoven, Netherlands -- into the Spring Training mix for one of the two available relief roles. After a rough opening act this spring with the Blue Jays, the right-hander was looking forward to this fresh start with Cleveland.
"I had a pretty challenging spring so far," said van den Hurk, whose new Indians jersey hung from the locker behind him. "The next 10 days, for me, I'm going to try to do the best I can in the games and try to do what I can do to make the team."
Cleveland claimed van den Hurk -- he requested to be referred to by his given first name of Henricus rather than Rick -- off waivers from Toronto after the righty endured a poor four-game showing in Grapefruit League play. Over 6 1/3 innings, van den Hurk allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, mixing in six walks and three strikeouts. Being out of Minor League options certainly did not help the situation.
So the Blue Jays cut ties with van den Hurk, who arrived in Arizona early on Thursday. The pitcher threw in a bullpen session for the Indians on his first day in camp and is slated to pitch in his first Cactus League game on Saturday in Glendale. He noted that he nearly signed with the Tribe over the winter.
"They were very interested at the time," said van den Hurk, who signed with Toronto on Feb. 22. "It was a tough decision for me, but I decided to go with Toronto. But, in the end, I'm with Cleveland."
Over the course of five big league seasons, van den Hurk has gone 8-10 with a 5.97 ERA over 46 games, including 35 starts between stints with the Marlins and Orioles. He features a fastball, changeup, curveball and slider, but said he will limit his arsenal now that he is moving into a relief role. Last season, the righty posted an 8.00 ERA in four games with the Orioles and went 9-13 with a 4.43 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk.
The list of van den Hurk's competitors for the open bullpen jobs includes Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Jeremy Accardo, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray and Robinson Tejeda.
"Our front office likes him," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They feel he's still got some upside. He's a big guy with downward plane. We're going to give him some innings here and throw him in the middle of the competition for the two spots in the 'pen."
Perez, Brantley, Hannahan making progress
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Given the rash of injuries that have plagued the Indians over the past two seasons, the ballclub will take all the good news it can get on the health front.
On Friday, a trio of Cleveland's injured players -- closer Chris Perez, center fielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Jack Hannahan -- were making solid progress. All three project to resume playing in Cactus League contests within the next week.
"We need these guys healthy for the start of the season," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Perez, who has been sidelined all spring with a strained left oblique, is scheduled to make his first game appearance on Saturday in a Minor League contest at the Indians' complex. Acta said the team simply wants to have Perez pitch in a more controlled environment his first time on the mound in a game setting.
"We do that," Acta explained, "because if a guy goes out there and struggles badly, or the pitch count is out of hand, you can always roll over, stop the inning, and just come into the dugout. It wouldn't look very good if we do that in front of people paying their money."
If everything goes well, it is possible that Perez might make his Cactus League debut on Monday or Tuesday. Cleveland remains optimistic about the closer's chances of being ready in time for Opening Day.
Brantley (right hamstring) and Hannahan (back tightness) both participated in Friday's team workout to varying degress. Brantley hit in the batting cage and later tested his hamstring with some agility drills. Hannahan was a full participant in the workout after resting his back for a few days.
Quote to note
"I'm a great soccer player. That's why I'm in a baseball uniform." -- new Indians reliever Henricus van den Hurk, joking when asked if he was any good at soccer
The following players were released from Minor League camp on Friday: right-handers Joey Mahalic, Ramon Cespedes, Matthew Curtis and Moisses Ramirez; left-hander Kirk Wetmore; utility man Kevin Fontanez; and catcher Doug Pickens.
Indians infielder Cristian Guzman -- in camp as a non-roster invitee -- exited Friday night's game in the first inning with tightness in his right hamstring. Guzman, who started the game as shortstop, is considered day to day and will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
Indians All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has dealt with soreness in his right arm for the past few days, according to Acta. Cabrera missed games on Thursday and Friday, but will likely return to the lineup on Saturday for the Tribe.
The Indians entered Friday night's contest with a .251 team batting average this spring. That puts the Tribe on pace for its worst spring average in the past 12 years. The lowest over that time period was a .260 mark in 2007.