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03/22/11 8:16 PM EST

Lewis clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jensen Lewis spent Tuesday morning cleaning out his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse, shaking hands with teammates as they headed over to offer him their support.

For a few hours, it was not clear whether Lewis was moving down the hall to the Minor League side of Cleveland's facility or packing his bags for a fresh start with a new team. As it turned out, Lewis cleared waivers and was forced to accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus.

Lewis, 26, was exposed to waivers for 48 hours, putting him up for grabs for other organizations. The Indians had to risk losing Lewis through the waiver process because he is out of Minor League options. He is guaranteed to earn $650,000 this season.

After other teams opted against claiming Lewis, the Tribe gained the ability to remove him from their 40-man roster without consequence. The subtraction trimmed Cleveland's roster to 39 players, vacating a spot for the Indians to add someone in camp on a Minor League deal.

As things currently stand, the Indians have a handful of non-roster players in the running for a spot with the Opening Day squad. Infielder Jack Hannahan has a leg up for the starting job at third base, Travis Buck is in the mix for a reserve outfielder role, and relievers Justin Germano and Doug Mathis are among the bullpen candidates.

Eliminating Lewis from the 40-man roster was one way to clear room for one of those players. Beyond Germano and Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann and Jess Todd are all still in camp vying for relief roles.

Right-hander Joe Smith is also in the mix, but it appears highly unlikely that he will be ready in time for Opening Day. Smith has been fighting upper abdominal soreness for the past two weeks and seems destined to begin this season on the 15-day disabled list.

Lewis declined to comment to reporters on Tuesday, deferring to Acta or general manager Chris Antonetti, but he responded to news of his demotion on the social networking site Twitter.

Under his handle of @JLEWFifty, Lewis wrote: "Big thank you to everyone for their support thru this tough time. Gonna be ok and back in the show soon!"

Last season, Lewis went 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 37 games for the Indians, but he spent 24 games with Triple-A Columbus, too. This spring, Lewis posted a 14.29 ERA in six games, allowing 10 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits in just 5 2/3 innings. Acta said Lewis' poor performance played the biggest role in Cleveland's decision.

"It's about results," Acta said. "I don't think anybody here is blindsided about what decision is being made about any particular player.

"His velocity is a little bit down," Acta said. "But right now, at the Major League level, velocity is not everything. You need to command and locate your pitches in order to have success whether velocity is down or not."

Buck continues surge toward roster spot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians outfielder Travis Buck continued his push toward an Opening Day roster spot with another strong showing in Tuesday's 10-7 victory over the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

Buck went 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs, giving him four blasts and a .435 average for the spring through 46 at-bats. Buck is in camp on a Minor League contract, but he appears to be a leading contender for the available reserve-outfielder role off the Tribe's bench.

"He's had an impressive Spring Training," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's a guy that I feel we got him at the right time. He's been hurt the last few years, but he's done a nice job. He plays all three outfield spots, hits well and hits for power, at least in Spring Training. We like his chances."

Cleveland inked the 27-year-old Buck to a Minor League deal in December after he was not offered a 2011 contract by Oakland, his former club. In four injury-riddled years with the A's, Buck hit .250 in 170 games, but his tenure with the ballclub was defined by his five trips to the disabled list over that span.

With center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) out of the mix for Opening Day, and the versatile Trevor Crowe sidelined with a right shoulder injury, Buck has a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Right now, the projected starting outfield includes Austin Kearns in left, Michael Brantley in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right.

"Our front office has always liked him," Acta said of Buck. "We felt it was a good opportunity for him over here, getting him over here as a free agent, knowing that we didn't know how Grady was going to be at this point."

Cabrera continues torrid spring with homer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta stood outside the team's clubhouse on Tuesday morning, raving about how Asdrubal Cabrera has looked at the plate this spring.

A few hours later, Cabrera made good on Acta's words when he launched his third home run of Spring Training in a 7-3 victory over the D-backs at Salt River Fields. The shortstop has been on a tear throughout camp, offering proof that he has moved well past last year's health woes.

"I'm very excited," Acta said. "I could tell from Day 1 that he's stronger. He's driven balls to the opposite field, and has even hit a couple of home runs with the authority that he couldn't show in the second half of [last] season."

That was due to the fact that Cabrera was hampered by a left forearm issue down the stretch last season. He missed two months after breaking his arm, and he was not at full strength when he returned to the Tribe's lineup in late July.

"We kind of knew that he wasn't 100 percent when he came back," Acta admitted. "But he's a gamer. He likes to play. We appreciate that."

Overall, Cabrera finished last season hitting .276 with three home runs, 16 doubles and 29 RBIs in 97 games for Cleveland. He hit at a .269 clip in 63 games after he was activated from the disabled list. So far this spring, Cabrera has hit .432 with three homers and six RBIs in 37 at-bats.

Smith appears ticketed for disabled list

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It is becoming increasingly clear that the Indians are not expecting reliever Joe Smith to be available for Opening Day.

On Monday, Indians manager Manny Acta met with head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff to discuss the timetable for Smith's recovery from a strained upper abdominal muscle, which has sidelined Smith for the past two weeks. Acta said it is likely that Smith will open the season on the 15-day disabled list.

"[Soloff] doesn't think that he's going to be ready for Opening Day," Acta said on Tuesday morning.

With eight days remaining before the Indians depart Arizona, there is little time to have Smith progress through a full throwing program.

"Lonnie indicated to me that, in the past, because of Smitty's delivery, pushing him a little bit to get him ready in a certain amount of time hasn't been successful around here," Acta said

Smith, who turned 27 on Tuesday, has not appeared in a game since March 9, but the right-hander has been playing catch. While he might be able to get back on a mound by the end of the week, Smith said on Monday that he was worried about being able to handle appearances on consecutive days.

If Smith does begin the season on the 15-day DL, he would likely only be out for a week or two, barring a setback.

Last season, Smith went 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 53 appearances out of Cleveland's bullpen. He is scheduled to earn $870,000 this season.

Worth noting

Right-hander Josh Tomlin, who appears to be the favorite to win the available fifth spot in the rotation, logged five innings in a Minor League game on Tuesday morning. Facing Cleveland's Triple-A Columbus lineup, Tomlin retired each of the 15 batters he faced in order. He struck out five. Tomlin threw 53 pitches in the game and worked in another 20 in the bullpen. He was originally slated to start on Monday, but the Tribe's game against the Royals was rained out. ... Relievers Chad Durbin and Justin Germano each logged an inning in the same Triple-A game on Tuesday morning. Both pitchers were charged with one unearned run apiece. ... X-rays and an MRI exam on Adam Everett's left thumb came back negative for any breaks or ligament damage. Everett took part in Tuesday's morning workout and the veteran shortstop might be able to play as early as Wednesday. ... Third baseman Jason Donald, who will open this season on the 15-day disabled list with a broken middle finger on his left hand, is limited to throwing right now. He is not able to play catch or hit. Donald said he will have his hand re-evaluated later this week. There is still no established timetable for his return to the Indians. ... Indians manager Manny Acta is still not ready to reveal his Opening Day lineup, because too many things can still happen with eight days left in the Arizona portion of camp. Acta did note that with Grady Sizemore out of the Opening Day picture, Michael Brantley will be the everyday leadoff man and center fielder. ... Acta noted that the Indians will not have a clear-cut eighth-inning reliever when the season opens. The team will likely mix and match pitchers in that role until someone steps up and claims the job.

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.