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03/05/11 9:10 PM ET

Buck, Huffman fighting for outfield spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians played a pair of split-squad spring games on Saturday afternoon and manager Manny Acta opted for taking in the home tilt against the White Sox. He also made sure both Travis Buck and Chad Huffman were in the lineup.

With center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) and outfielder Trevor Crowe (right shoulder) doubtful for Opening Day, Cleveland likely has at least one outfield job up for grabs this spring. Buck and Huffman are both squarely in the hunt for a spot on the roster.

"I've always had to fight for a spot," said Buck, who is in camp on a Minor League contract. "That's the way I like it. Sometimes, where guys have guaranteed spots, they kind of relax. I did that a little bit [in the past] and it was not a good feeling. I want to come in here and earn my way on there."

Buck can man all three outfield spots and has been getting reps at first base as well. Huffman -- claimed off waivers from the Yankees last September -- can play both corner outfield positions and also has experience at first. On Saturday, Buck got the nod in center and Huffman started in right.

At the plate, Buck went 1-for-3 and ended the day with a .500 average in the early portion of the Cactus League slate. Huffman went 3-for-3 to raise his spring average to .571 in the early going.

"He's an interesting guy," Acta said of Huffman. "He brings energy. He plays the game hard. ... He has swung the bat very well and we like this guy. That's why we picked him up on waivers last year. He's making a good impression in camp."

Huff changing up with success

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- David Huff knew he needed to improve his changeup last season. The Indians left-hander was throwing his offspeed pitch too hard and hitters were taking advantage of the errant pitch.

So what did Huff do? He talked to Mets lefty Johan Santana.

"When the Mets were in town last year," Huff said, "I asked Santana, 'Hey, what're you doing that makes your changeup so good?' He helped me out big time. He showed me exactly how he throws it and what the mentality is on it."

On Saturday, Huff logged three shutout innings in Cleveland's 8-3 victory over the White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. He used his revamped changeup -- a circle change with a two-seam grip that is slightly different than Santana's signature offering -- to strike out Alex Rios to end the first and Dayan Viciedo to end the second.

Huff said Santana explained how he tries to "bounce" the changeup each time. The pitch has a natural sinking motion, so concentrating on keeping it in the lower half of the strike zone will often entice hitters to chase it. Early in camp, Huff said he has seen drastic improvement with the pitch.

"The changeup today was keeping me in there," Huff said. "Guys were swinging over the top of it."

During the course of the 35-pitch appearance, Huff said the lone hitter to have success against the offspeed pitch was Chicago shortstop Omar Vizquel. In the third inning, Vizquel sent the pitch into shallow left field for a one-out single. It was one of two hits allowed by Huff in his second outing of the spring.

Indians manager Manny Acta was impressed with what he saw from the lefty.

"He's worked very hard on it," Acta said. "He threw a lot of them, and good ones."

Huff knows it will take more than one improved pitch to crack the Tribe's Opening Day rotation, though. Last year, the 26-year-old southpaw went 2-11 with a 6.21 ERA in 15 starts for the Indians one season after going 11-8 with a 5.61 ERA as a rookie in 2009.

Right now, Huff is competing against Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez for the fifth spot with Cleveland's staff.

"I've done this for three years, fighting for the fith spot," Huff said. "So I'm kind of used to it. I can't even think about what they're doing and all the hype of getting the fifth spot. I've just got to do what I do and that's go out and compete for the team and be efficient out there and just get outs."

Quote to note

"David's a talented guy. He's had success here in the past. He's had success in the Minor Leagues. That's the reason why we're not going to give up on him and that's the reason why he's battling here for the fifth spot in our rotation. We think he's got the stuff to be a good Major League pitcher."
-- Indians manager Manny Acta, on lefty David Huff

Smoke signals

Outfielder Travis Buck, who is in camp on a Minor League contract, does not have an out clause in his contract in the event that he does not make the Opening Day roster. Buck did not sound too concerned. "The way I talked to them," Buck said. "it seemed like this wasn't going to be a short-term thing." ... Right-hander Anthony Reyes, who resumed throwing on Friday after sitting out five days with elbow soreness, is scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Sunday. ... Shin-Soo Choo was in the lineup Saturday as a designated hitter. He made his debut in right field on Friday after fighting through some left elbow soreness early in camp. While he has been cleared to play right field, Choo is still building up his arm strength and is not back at 100 percent. ... Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez, who is battling with Josh Tomlin and David Huff for the fifth rotation job, allowed four runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Mariners on Saturday. ... Reliever Jensen Lewis logged 1 2/3 shutout innings following Gomez's exit in Cleveland's 7-2 loss to Seattle. ... Shelley Duncan, who pulled a back muscle earlier this spring, made his Cactus League debut on Saturday, going 1-for-3 and playing first base against Seattle. ... Entering Saturday, Indians third-base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall was tied for the American League lead in slugging percentage (1.000) this spring. He ranked second in batting average (.500) and on-base percentage (.615).

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.