02/24/11 7:11 PM ET
Indians appear to be nearing deal with Durbin
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Durbin, 33, has also been linked to talks with the Red Sox, Rays, Phillies, Rangers and Mariners in recent reports. His decision could hinge on whether a club is willing to offer a Major League contract versus a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite.
Last season, the right-handed Durbin went 4-1 with a 3.80 ERA in 64 games for the Phillies, compiling 63 strikeouts against 27 walks over 68 2/3 innings. In 308 career games (75 starts), Durbin has gone 36-44 with a 5.05 ERA. He spent parts of the 2003-04 seasons with the Indians.
Donald growing familiar with hot corner
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Donald does not have his third baseman's glove yet. The Indians infielder has an order in for two new Rawlings, but he has to make do at his new position until those arrive in the mail.
On Thursday, Donald headed out to the hot corner with the glove he typically uses for shortstop. During the second inning of Cleveland's first intrasquad game of the spring, Donald did not have much use for the leather anyway. He just used his bare hand.
"It's what felt natural to do," Donald said.
With runners on second and third base, Adam Everett chopped a pitch from Indians lefty David Huff down the third-base line. Donald, who appears to be the front-runner for the vacant third-base job, charged in and grabbed the slow roller with his right hand, firing to first base for an impressive out.
2010 Spring Training - Cleveland Indians
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Spring Training Info
Indians manager Manny Acta liked what he saw, but he said it is the routine plays that will become more important to evaluate as the spring progresses.
"Donald made a very nice play," Acta said. "That's an instinctive play, which he's used to from playing shortstop. I want to see more reps -- routine ground balls and stuff like that. That's how you play good defense, making the routine plays."
Donald -- mainly competing against Luis Valbuena, Jayson Nix and Jared Goedert at third -- is growing increasingly comfortable at his new spot on the diamond. Prior to heading to Arizona for Spring Training, Donald even traveled to San Diego to have some offseason fielding sessions with Indians third-base coach and infield instructor Steve Smith.
Before heading to Goodyear Ballpark for Thursday's intrasquad action, Donald spent time manning third base during batting practice -- one technique he is using for learning to read balls off the bat. He also had a discussion with Travis Fryman, Cleveland's Minor League fielding coordinator, about positioning.
"I'm here. I'm playing third. That's the approach I've taken," Donald said. "That's what they want me to do, so that's what I'm going to focus on and that's what I'm going to prepare for. That's what I'm just going to give myself, too."
Acta stressing aggressiveness on basepaths
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta wants his club to gain a reputation for being aggressive on the basepaths. It is an area of emphasis this spring and one in which Acta hopes to see great improvement in the season ahead.
"Once you get the rep, then you put some pressure on the defense," Acta said. "The defense changes. The outfielders rush to balls and sometimes rush into mistakes. We're pushing the guys to play the game that way."
Acta stressed that stealing bases is not the only way to get better in that regard. The manager noted that the team needs to get better as a whole at taking an extra base, whether that means advancing from first to third on a hit or stretching a single into a double.
In the second inning of Thursday's intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark, Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta drilled a ball to left field for what could have been a single. Instead, LaPorta hustled around first and slid ahead of the throw at second for a double.
"He's heard enough in five days about that," Acta said with a grin.
Acta wants to see more plays like that this season.
"We did some good things swinging the bat and running the bases," Acta said of Thursday's game. "We moved guys over and took the extra bases, which is something that we're emphasizing this year in camp.
"We got in the middle of the pack last year in our baserunning and our goal is to continue to get better and push, push, push until we can put some pressure on other people. We just want to be aggressive and smart."
De La Cruz gains attention for more than flips
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A group of Indians players gathered on the agility field at the team's complex on a recent spring morning. They stood in a half circle around pitching prospect Kelvin De La Cruz, smiling and laughing in anticipation of what was about to happen.
In one quick motion, De La Cruz bent his 6-foot-5 frame and then uncorked into a backflip, landing perfectly to the delight of his teammates. Indians manager Manny Acta had not heard about De La Cruz's one-man show until Thursday.
"Really?" Acta said with a laugh. "He better not do another one."
Acta wants De La Cruz healthy and on the mound. The 22-year-old left-hander made a one-inning appearance during Thursday's intrasquad game, striking out two of the three hitters he faced. Acta came away impressed and made it clear that De La Cruz was a pitcher worth paying attention to during the coming Minor League season.
Last season, De La Cruz went 7-8 with a 5.01 ERA in 26 starts between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. Over 127 2/3 innings, the left-hander struck out 105 and issued 72 walks.
"He's very interesting," Acta said. "He's shown some maturity. He showed up to camp in very good shape. He spent most of the offseason out here working out. You can see it. He's one of those guys that can come [to the big leagues] quick, too. He's a lefty with good size, and he throws the ball downhill and spins the ball well.
"We already talked to him about his command. That's what those young guys like him, hard throwers, need to work on."
Acta might soon be talking to De La Cruz about backflips, too.
"I might ask him to ..." Acta cut himself off and shook his head. "No, I could get in trouble if he gets hurt."
The Indians collected five extra-base hits during their four-inning instrasquad game on Thursday at Goodyear Ballpark. "I didn't expect our bats to be so ready for a first game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I was expecting the pitchers to pretty much dominate." ... Third-base candidate Jason Donald went 2-for-2 with a single, triple and one run scored. ... Friday's intrasquad game will take place on Field 1 at 1:05 p.m. MT at the Indians' player development complex. Scheduled pitchers include Carlos Carrasco (starting), Mitch Talbot (starting), Josh Judy, Frank Herrmann, Aaron Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Anthony Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jess Todd, Zach McAllister, Joe Martinez, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano. ... Infielder Jack Hannahan, who is in camp on a Minor League contract, manned shortstop during Thursday's intrasquad game. Acta said Hannahan is technically in camp as a third baseman, but he can play multiple spots and is in the mix for a utility role off the bench. "The guy can play everywhere," Acta said. "He's one of those handy guys that can play all over the field and it's a given that he's going to catch a ball. He's a very good defensive player." ... Indians pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz (a first-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft) logged one inning in Thursday's game. The lefty finished with one strikeout and one walk. "[He] has that mound presence out there," Acta said. "It gives you the impression that nobody is going to hit him. He just has the look out there, that very confident look."