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02/23/12 7:55 PM EST

Santana encouraged after 'normal' offseason

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians had to force Carlos Santana to slow things down a bit over the offseason. Coming off his first full season in the big leagues, the catcher wanted to take part in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.

He was instructed to rest before training hard.

"He came from a long year, too," manager Manny Acta said. "I thought it was good that he was able to rest his body. It still wasn't easy. The kid wanted to play winter ball, too. He just loves to play."

Santana will have plenty of opportunities to play for the Tribe this season. When he is not behind the plate, he will see time as a designated hitter and first baseman to keep his legs fresh and his bat in the lineup. He projects to be swinging out of the cleanup spot.

Santana reported to camp a bit trimmer after an offseason spent training with Nelson Perez, a strength and conditioning coach for the club who moved to the Dominican Republic to work with Santana and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez over the winter.

Santana said that it was a great experience, especially considering this was the first normal offseason he has had in a few years. Last winter he was recovering from a major injury to his left knee. Two years ago he was coming off surgery to fix a broken hamate bone in his right hand.

This winter he was able to train without doing rehab.

"It was a great experience," he said. "It was my first time working out with a trainer in the offseason. It was a big difference. There was more preparing for the season. I'll be ready. This offseason was normal."

Last season, Santana hit just .239, but he belted 27 home runs, collected 79 RBIs, drew 97 walks and fashioned a .351 on-base percentage. The Indians believe that his average will continue to improve, especially as he continues to develop his approach from both sides of the plate.

A switch-hitter, Santana hit .202 with a .736 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) against right-handers last year and .318 (.964 OPS) against lefties. It was a complete reversal from 2010, when he hit .314 (1.002 OPS) against righties and .146 (.582) against lefties in his short stay in the Majors.

"Last year he got caught up a little bit into not using the whole field from the left side," Acta said. "It comes with experience. He knows that he can use the whole field and still hit a good amount of home runs, because guys are going to make mistakesm and he's going to hit them out. It's a given. I expect him to be better this year."

Tomlin's elbow problems are in the past

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians believe that Josh Tomlin is in the clear after a scare involving his right elbow last season.

On Thursday, during the second official workout of Spring Training, Tomlin completed a 10-minute bullpen session without any lingering issues. He expected as much after an offseason of rest remedied the elbow soreness that flared up late last season.

"It's completely fine now," Tomlin said. "I've got no restrictions."

Pitching coach Scott Radinsky had no reason to doubt Tomlin's health after watching the right-hander throw off the mound.

"He threw a great bullpen," Radinsky said. "He looked really good and under control. ... He looks good and he feels good. I'm just going off what he says, but from what I saw today, he looks totally normal."

Radinsky was quick to note that the 27-year-old Tomlin, who didn't pitch after Aug. 24 last season, recovered enough to throw a simulated game in late September. Tomlin might have started one of the last few regular-season games, but the team opted against taking any chances.

In the end, Tomlin finished 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in a promising campaign. He logged 165 1/3 innings and ranked first and seventh, respectively, in the American League in walks per nine innings (1.14) and WHIP (1.08). His WHIP was the lowest by an Indians pitcher in a season since Gaylord Perry (1.02) in 1974.

Radinsky is optimistic about Tomlin's chances of building on last year's showing.

"He's a big-time student," Radinsky said. "He's a very observant guy. He asks a ton of questions all the time. I would say he'd be a guy that would continue, and you'll just see the natural progress of him maturing, and figuring out the league a little more, and kind of understanding what he needs to do to pitch. If one guy is going to do it, he's going to be the guy."

Indians to be mic'd up against D-backs

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians fans are going to have a chance to hear some of what the players hear throughout the course of a ballgame.

On Thursday, MLB Network announced that the telecast of Cleveland's Cactus League contest against the D-backs on March 7 at Salt River Fields will included live in-game audio. A select group of players and coaches will wear microphones, giving insight into what is said and heard on the field and in the dugout.

"I like it," outfielder Shelley Duncan said. "I think they should do it more. They're trying to find ways to make games on TV more interesting. Test it out in Spring Training."

As many as six players on each team will be mic'd up for the broadcast, which will be called by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian. Content will be aired throughout the game, with audio on a brief delay. Microphones will also be set up at each base, down the lines and along the outfield wall.

Duncan said that at first it is hard not to think about the fact that the microphone is there.

"Sure, you do think about it," he said. "Especially the first time you do it. Probably the more you do it, you don't think about it. You probably feel like you've got to talk sometimes when you normally don't. ... Some guys would probably overdo it -- the whole being-in-front-of-the-camera thing. But I like the idea."

Quote to note

"He adds some age and some height." -- Pitching coach Scott Radinsky, joking when asked what new starter Derek Lowe adds to the rotation

Smoke signals

• Position players were required to report to Arizona on Thursday. Though they did not have to be at the complex, all of the position players have shown up early. Outfielders Trevor Crowe and Felix Pie, along with first baseman Casey Kotchman, all arrived on Thursday.

• New outfielder Fred Lewis, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, is a cousin of former Cleveland outfielder Matt Lawton. One reason Lewis chose to sign with the Tribe was the high praise Lawton had for the organization.

• Designated hitter Travis Hafner and outfielder Shelley Duncan attended Wednesday night's Republican debate in Phoenix with their wives. Both players are big into politics, especially during this election season.

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.