GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With the race for two available spots in the Indians' bullpen still wide open, veteran right-hander Dan Wheeler has been doing all he can to make a late push for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Following an ugly start to Spring Training, Wheeler has pieced together four solid outings, looking more like the experienced reliever Cleveland had in mind when it added him to the fold as a non-roster invitee over the winter.
"I'm getting a better feel for it right now," Wheeler said. "I'm getting to the point where I'm making better pitches. That's what it really boils down to is making quality pitches. I feel like I'm getting a little bit more life on the ball, which helps me maybe get the swings that I'm looking for as a pitcher."
Over his last four appearances, Wheeler has spun four shutout innings with four strikeouts, three hits allowed and one walk. It has been a drastic contrast to his first four outings, in which he gave up nine runs (eight earned) on 10 hits, including three home runs.
"It's unfortunate, but it's part of baseball," said Wheeler, who had a 4.38 ERA in 47 games for the Red Sox last season. "For me, I'm not dwelling on that -- the first four or the last four. I just have to continue to get better every time I go out there."
As things currently stand, Wheeler is up against Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Jeremy Accardo, Chris Ray, Robinson Tejeda and Henricus van den Hurk for the two vacancies in the bullpen. Manager Manny Acta has also mentioned starters Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff as potential relief options.
"You want to have good results, because you're here to make the team," Wheeler said. "But I know what I'm capable of and I think everybody here knows what they're capable of, too."
Slowey trying to focus on his own season
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Kevin Slowey is only focusing on what he can control. That means preparing for the coming baseball season and not worrying about whether the Indians will name him the fifth starter or send him to the Minor Leagues.
For Slowey's last outing, Cleveland did send him to Minor League camp, where he worked six innings on Sunday to continue building up his innings. Fellow fifth starter candidate Jeanmar Gomez started at the same time, but during the Indians' Cactus League game against the Cubs at Goodyear Ballpark.
Slowey -- acquired in a trade with the Rockies over the winter -- did not read too much into where their assigned starts took place.
"The mindset for me is I'm getting ready for a season," said Slowey, who has a Minor League option remaining. "Any decision that happens off the field is a decision they're going to make and I understand and appreciate that. Any decision that goes on on the field is one that's going to be in my hands.
"[Manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Scott Radinsky] have been excellent in communicating that to me, that when I'm out there my job is to get guys out and prepare for a season and that's it. I have to leave it at that."
In his Minor League outing on Sunday, Slowey allowed three runs on five hits over six innings, in which he struck out three, walked none and piled up 81 pitches. Including his Cactus League appearances, the right-hander has posted a 6.00 ERA this spring across 18 innings. For the most part, Slowey was happy with his latest effort.
"Things went well," he said. "It was a good opportunity for me to stretch out to six innings and kind of use all my pitches. Obviously, a lot of the guys that I was pitching in front of were guys that were in this camp before, so I knew them, too.
"That's always good just to kind of maintain and foster those relationships with guys you'll be playing with at some point, somewhere, or against at some point, somewhere. It was good."
The Indians are not any closer to naming their fifth starter, though. Slowey and Gomez, who has fashioned a 1.69 ERA in five spring outings, remain in the mix, as does left-hander David Huff. Acta said the team will closely evaluate each of their next performances before making a final decision.
"For the three guys, we're going to have to see the last outing, too," Acta said on Monday. "If we were ready to make an announcement today, we'd make it. But I think the last outing is important for every one of them."
Ubaldo confident he will be back to speed
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ubaldo Jimenez countered his decline in pitch velocity last season by turning more often to a four-seam fastball. It was a trend that the Indians starter is hoping to correct during the upcoming year.
"My fastball is something I got away from last year," said Jimenez, who was acquired in a trade with the Rockies last July. "The thing is, in 2009 and early in 2010, I never used to throw a four-seamer that much. Last year, I threw it because I didn't have my velocity."
Last season and this spring, Jimenez has not flashed the 97-98 mph sinker he boasted in 2009 or '10, which were his best two seasons with the Rockies. The Indians' No. 2 starter has sat between 90-95 mph for much of Spring Training, expressing faith that his pitch speed will be fine when the regular season approaches.
"This is only Spring Training," Jimenez reminded.
In 2010, when Jimenez's average sinker was around 97 mph, he used more four-seamers than sinkers in the final three months of the season. During that stretch, the righty went 5-7 with a 3.98 ERA, compared to opening the year 14-1 with a 1.83 ERA for Colorado.
Last season, Jimenez again threw mostly four-seamers over the last three months, going 7-6 with a 4.99 ERA in that span. His fastballs -- both four-seam and two-seam -- dropped to around 94 mph on average throughout 2011.
This spring, Jimenez has gone 1-3 with a 7.24 ERA in five Cactus League appearances for the Indians and is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday against the White Sox.
Asked if he felt Jimenez could benefit from relying more on his sinker again, Indians manager Manny Acta said the primary concern right now is throwing strikes.
"I want him to go back to being able to pound the strike zone before I'll talk about pitch selection," Acta said. "Right now, one step at a time. ... I need him to be more consistent in the strike zone and then I'll be picky about pitch selection and stuff."
Guerrero works out at Indians' academy
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians watched free-agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero go through a workout at their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.
Citing an unspecified source, the report indicated that Guerrero worked out at Cleveland's complex in Bocachica, and the ballclub has some level of interest in possibly adding the veteran to the fold.
The 37-year-old Guerrero, who has a history with Indians manager Manny Acta from their days in the Montreal Expos organization, hit .290 with 13 home runs and 65 RBIs with the Orioles last season. He has hit .318 with 449 home runs across 16 Major League seasons.
Cleveland already has a DH in Travis Hafner, but the team does have an opening in left field. That said, a variety of health woes have limited Guerrero's ability to play the outfield in recent years. Guerrero has not appeared in the outfield in any games since the 2010 season.
Quote to note
"I think we're right where we need to be. One more and let's get the party started." -- Indians Opening Day starter Justin Masterson, following his outing on Monday.
Indians closer Chris Perez (left oblique) threw in a Minor League game on Monday, marking his second such outing in three days. Cleveland announced the closer threw 11 pitches in one shutout inning. If Perez feels fine on Tuesday, he might be able to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday.
Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan, who missed nine spring games due to tightness in his upper back, returned to the lineup on Monday. Hannahan went 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles in the 6-5 loss to the Brewers. "That was good for him," manager Manny Acta said. "Right off the bat, a couple of doubles. I'm pretty sure that will help his confidence."
Indians outfielder Fred Lewis has not played in a Cactus League game since March 16 due to soreness in his right elbow. Lewis said he dealt with the same injury last season, but noted that he was feeling better. He played catch from 90-plus feet during Monday's workout and said he might be able to return to a game later this week.
Indians center fielder Michael Brantley, who has been sidelined since March 19 with a right hamstring injury, remained out of the lineup on Monday. Acta noted that Brantley ran the bases during Monday's workout without issues, but remains a couple of days away from returning to game action.