Masterson deals solid outing amid contract talks
Indians edge Cubs on Asdrubal's bases-loaded walk in fourth inning
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Masterson took the mound at Goodyear Ballpark on Thursday afternoon amidst ongoing contract talks with the Indians. The big right-hander turned in three shutout innings to set the tone for Cleveland's 1-0 victory over the Cubs.
"I was very distracted," Masterson joked. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I was very nervous."
In his second Cactus League outing of the spring, Masterson ended with no runs allowed on three hits and three strikeouts against one walk. The sinkerballer worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the first inning and avoided further damage in the remainder of his performance.
"The one good thing is he had some guys swinging over that two-seamer," manager Terry Francona said of Masterson. "He had to pitch out of the stretch with some runners on. That's not the worst thing, either. You'll see around March 27 or 28, he'll be feeling good."
Masterson is focusing on building up for Opening Day on the field, while his agent discusses a multi-year extension with the Indians behind the scenes. Masterson's camp presented Cleveland with an offer -- one that could pave the way for a three- or four-year deal -- last weekend, but the Indians have yet to counter the pitcher's proposal.
"We're still talking through it," Masterson said. "I'm sure they're looking through it and seeing what they smartly want to counter back or just say, 'Hey, yeah, sounds great. Let's do this.'"
As for his outing, Masterson said there is plenty of room for improvement.
"I felt OK," Masterson said. "Nothing over the top, but it was nice getting out there, making some pitches. I was mixing in some more sliders. We were getting around those a little bit and underneath the sinker every once in a while, but for the most part I was pretty happy."
The Cubs gave the start to Travis Wood, who also turned in three scoreless innings and finished with three strikeouts, no walks and one hit allowed. Chicago hit a bump in the road in the fourth inning, when Justin Grimm took over on the hill.
Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis opened with back-to-back singles off Grimm, who later loaded the bases with one out by hitting Michael Brantley with a pitch. Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera then drew a walk with the bags full to force in a run, pushing the Indians to a 1-0 lead.
Aaron Harang and Trevor Bauer -- two of the four pitchers vying for the only opening in Cleveland's rotation -- followed Masterson out of the bullpen. Harang turned in two shutout innings with two strikeouts and one walk, and Bauer added two scoreless frames of his own. Bauer struck out four batters and avoided any runs after loading the bases with one out in the sixth inning.
Up next for Indians: The battle for the lone vacancy in Cleveland's rotation will continue on Friday, when right-hander Carlos Carrasco is slated to throw three innings in a start against the Cubs at 3:05 p.m. ET in Mesa, Ariz. Starter Corey Kluber (a virtual lock for the rotation) is scheduled to follow with three innings of his own. Bullpen candidates Vinnie Pestano and Blake Wood are also penciled in to pitch against Chicago. The game will be broadcast on 99X FM in Cleveland and aired across the Indians Radio Network and Indians.com.