GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Derek Lowe has never been on the disabled list, and the veteran pitcher has no plans of being sidelined any time soon. The Indians sinkerballer is dealing with a minor back issue, but he is confident he can be ready in time for Opening Day.
"I'm a durable cat," said Lowe, who is entering his 16th season in the big leagues. "Nine lives."
Lowe left his outing against the Rockies on Thursday after only three innings due to what the team described as back spasms. On Friday morning, the 38-year-old indicated that he was feeling better, but he was not sure he would be able to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday in an exhibition against Class A Carolina in Zebulon, N.C.
As for possibly needing to go on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, Lowe said he did not think that was necessary.
"Absolutely not," Lowe said. "I hate this rehab stuff. It's going to challenge my mental capacity."
Both manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti noted that head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff did not feel Lowe's injury was serious. Acta went as far as saying Lowe was still scheduled to pitch in Tuesday's exhibition game as planned, noting that the DL had not been discussed.
"That's not even going through our heads," Acta said. "We feel that he's going to be OK to start that game."
This spring, Lowe has posted a 3.50 ERA in five Cactus League appearances, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 17 hits in 18 innings. Cleveland acquired the pitcher in a trade with the Braves on Oct. 31, following the worst showing of Lowe's long career. In 34 outings last year for Atlanta, Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA.
Lowe described his injury as more of a cramp than anything else.
"It was like my whole right side was just not my friend," he said, indicating the discomfort was around his rib cage. "In hindsight, I probably should've just stopped after the first inning. But I told them, 'You pitch through stuff all the time,' and I said, 'It's not going to get any worse and it's not going to get any better.' But, obviously, they pulled the plug.
"It's way better than it was [on Thursday]. Doing all the tests, I didn't tear anything and it's not the oblique. We're just trying to figure out what exactly happened."
Tribe leaning on Wheeler's track record
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Dan Wheeler has been a reliable reliever for the majority of his Major League career, and the Indians are leaning heavily on that knowledge in trusting him with one of their bullpen spots on the Opening Day roster.
On Friday morning, manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti informed Wheeler that he had made Cleveland's relief corps, adding an experienced arm to one of the American League's strongest bullpens. In the afternoon, Wheeler yielded three home runs in his worst outing of the spring.
"He's had some ups and downs during Spring Training," Acta said. "We're relying a lot on track record. Obviously, this guy has been good for years now in the league. The last four outings he had been good. He had a bad one today."
In Friday's 6-5 Cactus League loss to the Reds, the 34-year-old Wheeler allowed five runs on five hits -- including home runs to Todd Frazier, Juan Francisco and Ryan LaMarre -- in one inning. That raised his spring ERA to 11.70, though the righty had pieced together five consecutive scoreless outings entering his latest effort.
"It's been a tough battle all spring," Wheeler said. "For me to come back after the rough start and to kind of get some good appearances under me is pretty gratifying. To get out there and to hear the good news today, for me personally, it was nice. But there's still a lot of work to be done. I don't take anything for granted."
Cleveland is choosing to look beyond Wheeler's spring numbers, though. The right-hander is a veteran of 12 big league seasons between stints with the Rays, Mets, Astros and Red Sox. Last season, Wheeler posted a 4.38 ERA overall, but had a 2.54 ERA in his his last 36 appearances for Boston.
Wheeler joins a bullpen that already includes closer Chris Perez, setup men Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp, sidearmer Joe Smith and lefty Rafael Perez. There is one spot left up for grabs, with candidates in Frank Herrmann, Jeremy Accardo and Jairo Asencio.
"He's a guy that has experience pitching very late in games," Antonetti said of Wheeler. "He's pitched in the postseason, and he's pitched in one of the toughest divisions in baseball in the American League East. He's had some success, we like what we saw in camp and we feel like he makes our bullpen better."
Huff likely to start season on disabled list
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This is not how David Huff wanted his Spring Training to end. One of three final candidates for the available fifth-starter role, the Indians left-hander is now expected to open the season on the disabled list.
Talk about bad timing.
"That's probably the most frustrating part," Huff said on Friday morning.
Huff exited his start against the D-backs on Thursday after facing only one batter. While fielding a chopper to the right side of the mound off the bat of Willie Bloomquist, Huff strained his right hamstring. The pitcher was feeling better on Friday, but there is not enough time left for him to make a run at Cleveland's rotation.
"There's no chance that David is going to be ready for Opening Day," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Friday. "He showed up today better, but he'd need a big miracle. Obviously, it looks like he's going to be a DL candidate."
Huff, 27, posted a 5.79 ERA in 14 Cactus League innings this spring, though the bulk of the damage came during a five-run misstep against the Angels on March 11. For the most part, the left-hander was pleased about his progress with his secondary pitches, and with the mechanical adjustments he made last season.
The injury takes Huff out of the rotation race, though, and narrows the field to right-handers Jeanmar Gomez and Kevin Slowey. Gomez -- the favorite for the job to this point -- left his Friday start after 3 2/3 innings and is day to day with a mild right hip strain. Slowey allowed seven runs in five innings in a Triple-A game on Friday afternoon.
Huff noted that he injured the same hamstring over the winter.
"This offseason I had a mild strain, but it wasn't anything serious," said Huff, who went 2-6 with a 4.09 ERA in 11 outings for the Indians last season. "I was doing some sprint work. Same hammy. Same spot. So, we'll see where we go from here."
Quote to note
"Hopefully, the more we have our regular lineup out there and together -- now that [Thursday's] split-squad is behind us and we no longer have to plan for that -- we'll be able to see a little bit more consistency, which, candidly, we haven't seen to date." --Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, on the offense
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti noted that Matt LaPorta and Russ Canzler would likely split the playing time at first base at Triple-A Columbus to begin the season. When he is not at first, LaPorta can also work as a left fielder or designated hitter. Canzler can handle first and third base, along with left field and DH.
Indians manager Manny Acta said the team will likely be able to reveal its pick for the final bullpen spot within the next couple of days. Cleveland wants to take a look at recently acquired reliever Jairo Asencio before determining whether to give the final job to him or candidates Jeremy Accardo or Frank Herrmann.
Indians closer Chris Perez, who spent the majority of this spring working his way back from a left oblique strain, is scheduled to pitch in his second Cactus League game on Saturday night against the Rangers. Perez would then pitch on Monday and throw in a bullpen session on Tuesday in preparation for Opening Day.