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03/12/11 8:21 PM ET

Sizemore begins running bases on Sunday

Indians optimistic star can start playing games by next weekend

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The practice fields at the Indians' player development complex in Arizona are a far cry from a Major League stadium, but one venue will hopefully lead to the other for center fielder Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore heads to one of the diamonds at Cleveland's Minor League facility in Arizona and begins running bases Sunday for the first time since undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in June. It is a major step in his recovery.

"He's feeling good, guys," said Indians manager Manny Acta.

Sizemore's rehab program includes a baserunning progression over the next week. If everything goes according to plan, Acta said it's possible that he could be cleared for game activities as early as next Sunday.

Then again, Acta did not want to give an exact date for Sizemore's debut.

"Some time between March 20 and March 30 he could be in games," Acta said.

It has yet to be determined whether Sizemore would make his game debut in a Cactus League or Minor League setting. The Indians would have more flexibility in a Minor League game, such as using him as a leadoff hitter every inning or being able to stop play, for example.

Up to this point, Sizemore has worked through various sprint and agility drills while routinely taking part in batting practice. Last week, Sizemore added outfield drills to his program. He has tested his knee with movement in all directions and has gradually increased the intensity of the exercises along the way.

It is unlikely that Sizemore will be ready to break camp with Cleveland in time for Opening Day. The bigger question is whether Sizemore will resemble the aggressive and fast player that both the Indians and fans remember from years past.

The 28-year-old was a 30-30 player for the Tribe in 2008, when he launched 33 homers and stole 38 bases. When Sizemore is able to rejoin the Indians, Acta said the club will not stop the center fielder from running. Those types of decisions will be up to Sizemore.

"Whenever he's ready to play, he's going to have the green light here," Acta said. "And then, that's up to him how good he feels about stealing bases. The only thing I can control for Grady is the volume of his playing time. I don't think I can control how he's going to go about his business."

Indians don't have set rotation after Carmona

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The only certainty within the Indians' starting rotation is that Fausto Carmona is scheduled to take the mound on Opening Day. After him, the alignment of the starting staff is still being sorted out.

The general thinking has been that Justin Masterson, Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco -- the only perceived locks on the staff -- would follow Carmona as the second, third and fourth starters, respectively.

"That could change," said skipper Manny Acta.

The vacant fifth spot is also still up for grabs, with Josh Tomlin, David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez as the primary candidates. The field for the fifth job might be narrowed to two pitchers some time next week.

Acta noted that Cleveland will try not to skip any starters' turns this season. That means that, following a team off-day, the Tribe will keep the order of its rotation intact. With an off-day on April 4, the Indians could hold off on using a fifth starter until April 9, but Acta said the team will not use that strategy.

"We're going to continue for now," Acta said, "with the same mentality that we had here last year."

Acta understands Cabrera's value to club

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta believes there is one surefire way to see how valuable veteran second baseman Orlando Cabrera is to the ballclub.

"Watch him," Acta said. "Just watch him during the game. This guy, he directs traffic out there. He moves guys. I learned to appreciate how this guy approaches his job those three years in Montreal."

Acta referred to his time as a third-base coach and infield instructor with the Expos from 2002-04. Acta saw traits in Cabrera back then that convinced him that adding the 36-year-old infielder for this season would be beneficial.

Cabrera has hit .375 in seven Cactus League games and he has looked comfortable up the middle playing alongside shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Acta never had any doubt that Cabrera -- a shortstop for the bulk of his career -- would make a smooth transition to second.

"This guy has a fielding video out," Acta said. "Have you ever seen it? This guy is one of the most fundamentally sound infielders I've ever been around. Before I was a manager, I was an infield instructor.

"Also, this guy is the best baserunner that I've seen in the big leagues over the last 10 years, that I've been associated with. And he's not a burner."

Tribe hoping Stowell improves upon command

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Minor League reliever Bryce Stowell has already gained a reputation for hitting triple digits on a radar gun with his overpowering fastball. The Indians are hoping he can combine that with solid command.

"From a development standpoint," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, "that's one of the things that Bryce needs to continue to work on."

The 24-year-old, who was reassigned to Minor League camp on Friday, labored with his control during his stint with the Indians this spring. He issued four consecutive walks in an intrasquad game early in camp, then yielded two runs and walked a pair of batters in his lone Cactus League inning.

Antonetti noted that Stowell was a little behind physically.

"He's still building his arm strength," Antonetti said. "He didn't demonstrate that arm strength in Spring Training that he'll have during the course of the season, but that's not really a concern. There are a lot of guys that are in a similar boat."

Stowell was in camp mainly to get the experience of being in a Major League environment, not to make a run at a bullpen job. There is a chance that Stowell could make a push at some point this year if he comes out of the gates strong during the Minor League season.

Stowell split last year between Class A Kinston, Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Overall, the righty went 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 42 games, striking out 102 and walking 36 in 67 1/3 innings.

Quote to note

"When it comes to the speed and the stolen bases, it's all fine if you can get the whole package, but I don't think you'll hear me complain if he drops 25 bombs, or 30, like he used to, even if he doesn't steal 40 bases." -- Indians manager Manny Acta on center fielder Grady Sizemore

Smoke signals

Third baseman Jason Donald was originally in the lineup for Saturday's tilt against the Angels, but he was scratched shortly before the game. Donald is still experiencing some lingering soreness from being struck on the left hand by a pitch on March 5. Luis Valbuena started at third base and batted ninth. ... Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera went 2-for-3 with a double on Saturday to raise his spring average to .409. "I can tell that he's stronger than last year," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I've seen him shoot a few balls over to left field with authority, which, at the end of the season last year, he wasn't able to do that. I think he's going to have a fine year." Cabrera missed roughly two months with a broken left forearm. ... Right-hander Anthony Reyes, who struggled with soreness in his throwing elbow early in camp, is scheduled to throw in a bullpen session on Sunday. Acta noted that Reyes might make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday. ... Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, and others from the MLBPA were on hand at the Indians' complex on Saturday morning for a meeting with the club's players and staff. ... The Indians and White Sox will play a "B" game on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Glendale. Prospect Alex White starts, and the game is free to attend.

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.