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03/17/11 3:21 PM ET

Sizemore could return Sunday; Smith waiting

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore could return to the lineup as early as Sunday, his manager said on Thursday. Reliever Joe Smith may not be back so soon.

Sizemore injured his left knee last year on April 1, while sliding during an exhibition game, and he played through the injury until finally undergoing microfracture surgery in June. He hasn't appeared in a game since.

"He's on pace to play on Sunday," manager Manny Acta said Thursday, penciling in Sizemore for a home game against the D-backs."He's just going to DH for his first couple of at-bats."

Sizemore recently added baserunning to his workouts, but he has yet to put the knee to the full test by sliding on it.

"I didn't do any sliding today," Sizemore said Thursday, though it had been a possibility. "[I'll probably slide] either tomorrow or the next day."

Sizemore was limited to 33 games last year and hit a career-low .211 with no homers, after hitting at least 18 in each of his first five full seasons in the big leagues.

Acta declined to say if Sizemore would take sliding practice before Sunday but said that Sizemore would run the bases again Friday.

"I'm excited to get on the field," Sizemore said. "Everything else has felt good. [Sliding] is just the last progression, I guess."

Smith, a right-handed reliever, has been sidelined with upper abdominal soreness after making five Cactus League appearances and posting a 3.60 ERA in five innings.

"I'm hoping to [play] catch Saturday or Sunday and go from there," Smith said.

Smith is day-to-day, but he declined to make a prediction about when he would be ready to throw a bullpen session.

"I'll see how it feels. There's a schedule out, but it's based on how it goes day by day," Smith said. "I feel all right. [The soreness] is still there, but it's getting better."

The Indians are being cautious with Smith, but Acta seems confident the reliever will be ready for a role in the 'pen by Opening Day.

"All he needs is two to three more outings," Acta said. "He's pitched enough already. He's a situational guy. He really doesn't need to pile up that many innings [in Spring Training]. "It's more about outings than innings for him. A couple outings will do him good. Lonnie [Soloff, the team's head athletic trainer] has it all mapped out where Smitty's going to get a few outings before Spring Training is over. If he doesn't have any setback, he should be fine for Opening Day."

Santana seeing action at first base

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have an unexpected answer to the question, "Who's on first?" this spring. Though Carlos Santana has secured the starting catcher's role, he made his second start at first base on Thursday.

The Indians intend to occasionally use Santana as their designated hitter and at first base, in order to keep his bat in the lineup without wearing him down with work behind the plate. The 25-year-old is starting his second big league season, having played 46 games after a June callup last year.

"Right now, my focus is to be ready for the season," Santana said before going 1-for-3 against the Reds. "I'm trying to help the team, play hard, work hard. Right now, I'm not doing anything special [to prepare to play first base]."

Taking on a new position while handling the bulk of the work behind the plate can be a challenge for a young backstop, but Santana is not fazed by the task.

"At the start of my career, I played third base, and it's not a big difference," Santana said. "This is my first time playing first base professionally. I think I can play fine at first base."

Manager Manny Acta expects to use Santana more at first than as DH, assuming he carries only two catchers, noting that if Santana had to switch from DH to catcher if the starter got hurt, the Indians would lose the DH the rest of the game and have to bat their pitcher.

"Carlos is going to be fine there," Acta said. "It's going to be those little things -- cutoffs and relays, where to go, when to trail the runner, when not to. I'm not anticipating him struggling handling ground balls and stuff like that."

He met the challenges in Thursday's game, making the routine plays without event, though no balls were hit to first in Santana's six innings in the field. He had a tough run to the stands while unsuccessfully chasing a foul ball. He wasn't able to grab a wild throw from second baseman Luis Valbuena on a tough double-play attempt, but the ball bounced back from the first-base fence hard enough that the runner wasn't able to advance.

"Catching is harder, but I love it," Santana said. "The manager might want me to play outfield or third base or whatever position, and I'll play hard and respect the game. I am happy about [the chance to play]."

Santana's bat showed up when he doubled to right in the fourth inning, but Shin-Soo Choo had been thrown out stealing earlier in the at-bat, robbing him of an RBI opportunity and keeping the Indians scoreless.

"It's going to be an occasional thing, just to keep his legs fresh and keep him in the lineup as much as we can throughout the year," Acta said. "He's going to hit in the middle of our lineup, so we're expecting him to be in there as much as he can and give [first baseman Matt] LaPorta a breather here and there."

Carmona keeps up run of strong starts

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Fausto Carmona continued his recent roll with six strong innings against the Reds on Thursday, following up his scoreless four-inning outing his last time out. Manager Manny Acta has already announced Carmona as the Opening Day starter, but the right-hander is determined to keep making his case from the mound.

"He's proven over the last two [starts] that he's just about ready to go," Acta said. "We've got two weeks to go down here, and I guess we'll have to pace ourselves with him. He worked fast. Strike one, they kept beating the ball in the ground. He went six innings easy with a very low pitch count."

Carmona was scheduled to throw five innings, but he threw 76 pitches through six innings, putting him on pace to get to 100-110 pitches by Opening Day.

He gave up two runs -- one on a fourth-inning solo shot by Todd Frazier and another in the sixth, following a one-out triple from Reds reliever Dontrelle Willis.

"The ball was sinking, and they couldn't do anything but hit the top of it," Acta said. "Except for one kid that hit the bottom of it."

Shortstop Wolters sidelined with broken hand

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Highly touted Indians shortstop prospect Tony Wolters took a detour in his first Spring Training when he had to have surgery to remove the right hamate bone from his hand.

The Indians' third-round pick in last year's June Draft, Wolters came to the Indians' Minor League camp with soreness in his right hand. The 19-year-old left-handed hitter had apparently been hitting at home in Vista, Calif., and when the soreness lingered, he brought it to the attention of the training staff.

An MRI revealed the broken bone, and hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham performed the surgery to remove the bone.

Wolters played five games for the Arizona League Indians in 2010, hitting .211 in 19 at-bats. He was named the eighth-best prospect in the Indians' system by both MLB.com and Baseball America.

Tomlin efficient in Minor League outing

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are no off-days when you're battling for a spot in the rotation. Fifth starter candidate Josh Tomlin spent the Indians' lone scheduled day off pitching in a Minor League game as he tries to bolster his case to head north with the club on April 1.

While the rest of the club alternated between filling out NCAA Tournament brackets and practicing their golf swings, Tomlin threw five innings against Minor Leaguers from the Reds organization on Wednesday.

He worked efficiently, using 52 pitches against some notoriously free-swinging Minor Leaguers.

"Fantastic, he just carved them up," manager Manny Acta said, reporting what pitching coach Tim Belcher told him of the performance. "It's tough to do that when you're pitching against the Minor League guys. They can make it rough on Major Leaguers when they go over there just throwing the ball over the plate. But he threw the ball very well."

The other top contenders for the final spot in the rotation include David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez, both of whom will pitch in Friday's split-squad afternoon game in Surprise, Ariz. Acta has said that after Opening Day starter Fausto Carmona, the order of the remaining four starters won't be determined until early next week.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.