"He's not just a big kid that can hit the ball. He can pay first base a little bit and he knows what he's doing. It's not just a big swing. He can make an adjustment, hit the ball up the middle, put the ball in play with two strikes."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Minor Leaguer Mike McDade

Santana chats with Francona in day off from Classic

Outlook: Santana should remain a threat for Indians

PHOENIX -- Indians manager Terry Francona's cell phone began to buzz a few nights ago. It was catcher Carlos Santana, wanting to chat with the manager while away from Cleveland's camp to take part in the World Baseball Classic.

"I think he was bored," Francona said with a laugh on Friday morning. "He called. He was just sitting in his hotel room and he just called to [talk]. I thought that was pretty cool."

Santana, who is currently suiting up for his native Dominican Republic in the Classic, has had a solid tournament for his homeland. In five Classic games overall, the switch-hitting catcher has hit .267 (4-for-15) with one home run, two RBIs, three runs scored and six walks.

During Thursday's 3-1 victory over Team USA, Santana went 2-for-4 and had a key at-bat in the D.R.'s two-run rally in the ninth inning. Facing Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, Santana chewed his way through an eight-pitch at-bat, fouling off four pitches. He eventually grounded out to second base, but the chopper moved Nelson Cruz from second to third base.

Erick Aybar followed with a go-ahead single that brought Cruz home and set off one of the Dominican Republic's wild on-field celebrations.

"They're into it. You can tell," Francona said. "I think the experience has probably been great for him."

The Dominican Republic is awaiting the winner of Friday's matchup between Team USA and Puerto Rico to play for seeding for the World Baseball Classic semifinals. Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano is currently with USA, while Indians infielder Mike Aviles and Minor League lefty Giovanni Soto are on Puerto Rico's roster.

Last season, the 26-year-old Santana hit .252 with 18 homers, 27 doubles, 72 runs, 76 RBIs and 91 walks in 143 games for Cleveland. He has spent much of the past two seasons as the Tribe's cleanup hitter, but will likely slide down some in the order now that players such as Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds are in the fold.

"I think it's going to be good for him and for us," Francona said. "It's easy to say to a kid, 'Hey kid, go run the pitching staff. And, oh by the way, you're hitting cleanup.' That was a necessity last year. I get that. I've been in that situation.

"But I think now we have the ability to back him up a little bit, and it not only gives our lineup more balance, but it takes a little bit of the burden off of him."

Francona said he was impressed early in camp by Santana's defense, especially the catcher's throws to second base. The manager also believes Santana is only getting started as an offensive weapon for the Indians.

"He has the ability to take a walk, and he's always dangerous," Francona said. "And I think his better offensive years are ahead of him."

Despite reassignment, McDade on Indians' radar

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Mike McDade was not going to make the Indians' Opening Day roster, but he certainly put himself on the team's radar.

On Friday, Cleveland made a pair of roster reductions, optioning McDade to Triple-A Columbus and reassigning non-roster invitee infielder Nate Spears to Minor League camp. McDade, who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in November, made a good impression on manager Terry Francona.

"I think he's got a bright future," Francona said.

When Cleveland acquired the 23-year-old McDade -- a switch-hitting first baseman -- Francona said the scouting reports were "all over the map." McDade's large frame (6-foot-1, 250 pounds) was considered a potential issue by some evaluators, but Francona did not see any issues along those lines this spring.

In 16 Cactus League games with the Indians, McDade hit .400 (12-for-30) with one home run, two doubles and 10 RBIs. He also handled himself well at first base.

"Seeing him in person," Francona said, "he can hit, and he can hit from both sides. And he can actually play first. ... And I think he has a chance to hit good pitching. It looked to me like he could hit velocity. You see in Spring Training sometimes younger kids maybe come up and get a few hits, but maybe it's off an 86 [mph pitch]. Every time we've faced good pitching, he's had really good at-bats."

Last year, McDade hit .285 with a .360 on-base percentage and a .445 slugging percentage between stops with Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas in Toronto's farm system. He compiled 17 home runs, 19 doubles and 67 RBIs in 118 Minor League games in 2012. McDade then hit .286 in 24 games with Este in the Dominican Winter League.

Francona did note that he reminded McDade to keep his weight in check throughout the season.

"We actually talked about that a little bit," Francona said. "I think that's probably dogged him most of his career -- people keep hammering on him about it. I didn't want to do that to him. I just said, 'Hey, look man your future is important.' He has to keep an eye on it, and I told him, 'I hope you do, because I think you have a chance to play in the Major Leagues.'"

Rule 5 status limits options for McGuiness

Santana key component of Indians lineup

MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Chris McGuiness might not be able to break camp with the Indians, but manager Terry Francona is hoping the team can find a way to keep the Rule 5 Draft pick in the farm system.

"There's a lot to like," Francona said on Friday. "First, he's a great kid. He can play left, he can play right and he can play first. He's got a beautiful swing. He's a hard worker. He's a good listener. Saying that, in a perfect world, I wish he wasn't a Rule 5 and he was in our Minor League system. That's about as honest as I can be."

The Indians selected the 24-year-old McGuiness from the Rangers in December's Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. The move cost the Tribe $50,000, and the team is required to offer McGuiness back to Texas if he is not going to be on the 25-man roster. If a Rule 5 pick does make the Opening Day roster, he must remain on the team for the entire season, or be offered back to his original club for $25,000.

The other scenario is if McGuiness clears waivers, the Indians could attempt to work out a trade with the Rangers to keep the versatile player in their system.

"I hope that could happen," Francona said. "I don't know if it's realistic or not. I shouldn't even go into that, but we really like him a lot."

McGuiness -- a first baseman by trade -- posted a slash line of .268/.366/.474 for Double-A Frisco (Texas) last season. In 123 games, he posted 23 homers, 25 doubles and 77 RBIs. McGuiness then took home Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player honors after hitting .283 with four homers, five doubles and 27 RBIs for Surprise.

This spring, though, McGuiness has struggled at the plate. In 15 Cactus League games with Cleveland, he has hit just .115 (3-for-26) with three singles, no RBIs and eight strikeouts. Francona said it looked early on like McGuiness was pressing at the plate.

"I actually said something one day," Francona said. "I was walking by him in the dugout one day and I said, 'You're trying way too hard.' And it's easy for me to say that. You kind of forget sometimes, this is a big Spring Training for this kid. And every at-bat, if he's getting an at-bat in the eighth inning, that's his whole day. I think he's been better the last three weeks about just playing the game.

"But we love what we're seeing out of him. The other day in a 'B' game, he took a left-hander deep. That's not an easy thing to do. At 11 in the morning, hitting a homer off a lefty, that's saying something."

Smoke signals

• Indians manager Terry Francona said he has kept in constant contact with setup man Vinnie Pestano, who is currently pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. In two tournament appearances, Pestano has two strikeouts and one hit allowed in two innings.

"I've texted with him a bunch," Francona said. "He's been great about communicating with me every time he throws."

• With 13 games in a row with no off-days to open the regular season, the Indians are weighing whether to carry seven or eight relievers on the Opening Day roster. Francona said having a true long reliever is not currently deemed a necessity for the ballclub.

"No," Francona said. "That's a conversation we keep going back and forth with, with everybody. Some of it is going to depend on the makeup of the bullpen. Some of it is going to be determined by the number of guys in the bullpen. You've got a couple schools of thought there."

• Tribe right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is one of five starters competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, is scheduled to work three innings in a Minor League game at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday at Cleveland's complex. Matsuzaka left his last outing after one inning due to cramping in his right calf.

• Indians All-Star closer Chris Perez, who is working his way back from a right shoulder strain, is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time since Feb. 26 during Saturday's workout. Cleveland has not ruled Perez out for Opening Day.

• Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, is slated to log four innings in a Minor League game on Sunday. Kazmir has turned in 11 shutout innings (13 strikeouts) this spring between Cactus League and Minor League "B" game appearances.

• Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who is battling for a bench job this spring, exited Friday's game against the Brewers in the fourth inning due to tightness and cramping in his right hamstring. He doubled with two outs and left the game after reaching second base. Gomes is considered day to day with the injury.