03/01/12 10:15 PM ET
Brantley the likely choice to man center field
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Thursday, general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Manny Acta noted that the most likely situation is having Brantley shift to center field on a regular basis. Acta took things a step further, noting there was only one scenario under which Brantley would remain in left.
"I'm going to be blunt to you guys," Acta said. "The only way that Michael is going to play left field is if [Ezequiel] Carrera wins a job and plays center field. Other than that, there's nobody else in camp that can be a better center fielder than Brantley."
In all likelihood, this means Brantley will be in center come Opening Day.
Injuries to Cleveland's outfield played a big role in Carrera's ascent to the Major Leagues last season. The 24-year-old outfielder performed well in stretches, but looked out of place in others. Overall, the slap-hitting speedster spent 68 games with the Indians outside of a solid showing with Triple-A Columbus.
Carrera would have to outshine a pile of competitors this spring in order to make the team.
"Last year, it was a tough opportunity for him," Acta said. "It was a tough scenario: first time in the big leagues, coming in in the middle of a pennant race. He still has a ways to go up here. Obviously, the numbers are there and he needs to continue to improve. That's what Spring Training is for.
"He can show up in Spring Training and be lights out, but I think we all saw last year that he still needs some improvement. That's the reason he was in Triple-A."
With the Indians, Carrera hit .243 with 10 stolen bases, 11 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and 27 runs scored. Across 82 games at Triple-A, the outfielder hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs, 35 stolen bases and 63 runs.
If Brantley does indeed move to center field as expected, that means the Indians will be looking for a starter for left. Outside of Brantley and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the Tribe has 12 outfielders in camp (five non-roster invitees). That does not include infielder Jason Donald, who is expected to see some time in the outfield later this spring.
The two players who are out of Minor League options are Shelley Duncan -- a right-handed option for left field, first base and designated hitter -- and Aaron Cunningham, who hits from the right side and can play all three outfield spots. They would have to clear waivers if they were not on the active roster at the end of Spring Training.
Acta said defensive ability will be an important factor in the decision.
"When you're moving people around in the outfield," Acta said, "your defense also has to be taken into consideration. You can't sacrifice the defense. Grady and Michael together are a very good pair of outfielders. Now, you're moving Michael to center. In left field, you can't downgrade your defense too much."
Indians in favor of adding extra Wild Card
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Count the Indians among the ballclubs hoping that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association put the finishing touches on an agreement to add two additional Wild Card teams to the postseason mix.
"Better chance for the Tribe," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It's good. I just hope that everything is aligned the best way possible."
While nothing has been made official, it is believed that the new format -- expected to be put in place during the 2012 season -- would call for a one-game playoff game between the two Wild Card teams in each league. Acta said that creates more incentive for teams to do everything possible to win the division.
Acta likes that aspect of the reported plans.
"It's going to push people down the stretch to try to win the division," Acta said. "Because, hey, you can win 90 games and be the Wild Card and be home after one game. It's good. It gives other teams chances to get into the playoffs. I think the game has shown over the last few years that, once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen."
Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan was also in favor of the retooled system.
"It's wonderful in two ways," Duncan said. "First, it gets another team in the playoffs. Second, it makes winning the division a little more advantageous, because that Wild Card game, those two teams have got to burn their No. 1 [starter] right there. This way, it adds a little more to winning the division. I like it a lot."
As for criticism over the one-game playoff between Wild Card teams, Acta does not think he would be complaining if Cleveland wound up in that situation.
"If you are a Wild Card, you shouldn't be complaining or being picky about how many games you're going to play," Acta said. "I would be really mad if it would've been a one-game playoff with a team that finished first and a Wild Card. Just be satisfied that they're adding one more and play the game and zip it.
"Would you rather have a one-game playoff and have a chance to make it, or be out because they're not adding one more?"
Spilborghs hoping foot injury is behind him
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ryan Spilborghs is healthy and over the right foot injury that plagued him throughout last season, but that has not stopped the Indians outfielder from wearing a protective boot at night while he sleeps.
"I do not want that thing to ever come back," Spilborghs said.
This spring, Spilborghs entered camp with Cleveland as a non-roster invitee and a shot at making the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder. He might still compete for that role, but the Tribe is also looking for one starting outfielder -- most likely for left field -- with center fielder Grady Sizemore sidelined for at least two months after lower back surgery.
Spilborghs is at full strength after being dogged by plantar fasciitis last season, and he believes he has plenty of attributes that make him a fit for the Indians' roster. For one, he hits right-handed, offering the lefty-heavy Tribe some balance. On top of that, Spilborghs can play all three outfield positions.
"I came in here with the goal to make the team out of camp," said Spilborghs, who signed a Minor League contract on Jan. 20. "I knew if I proved I'm healthy, and they see my approach and the way I play the game, that they would try to make a spot for me to help this club.
"I think I've proven over the course of my six seasons that I'm a good guy to have in the clubhouse and a good guy that can play all three spots in the outfield. You can put me anywhere in the lineup -- wherever you need me."
Last season with the Rockies, the 32-year-old Spilborghs hit just .210 in 98 games. He had two stints on the disabled list due to the right foot injury, which eventually ended his season early on Sept. 11. Over his final 52 games, Spilborghs hit .170 for Colorado while dealing with persistent foot pain.
Before last season, Spilborghs had hit .281 with a .354 on-base percentage and a .440 slugging percentage in parts of six Major League seasons. Feeling improved this past offseason, Spilborghs hit .298 in 57 winter ball games with Yaquis de Obregon in Mexico.
Being a right-handed hitter, the discomfort flared when he tried to put weight on his back leg at the start of his swing. As a result, Spilborghs said his mechanics suffered and his statistics were dragged down in the process.
"To my detriment, I decided not to go on the DL when I probably should have," Spilborghs said. "It was one of those things where, in hindsight, I probably should've put myself on the DL months before I ever did, and I hurt myself in that regard.
"People think you become something else -- that you're not the player you once were -- and that's not the case. It was a total physical issue. ... Now that I'm 100 percent, I feel like I'm back to where I was before."
Quote to note
"When guys do good, they're making an impression. When they're not doing good, it's too early to tell. We give them the benefit of the doubt. That's the way it works." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on evaluating players early on in the spring
Indians outfielder Aaron Cunningham's name was noticeably absent from the instrasquad game lineup sheets over the past two days. Manager Manny Acta noted on Thursday that Cunningham was resting a sore left hand. The outfielder took part in batting practice on Thursday and is expected to be available for Saturday's Cactus League game against the Reds.
Indians left-hander Rafael Perez has been sidelined for the past few days due to soreness in his throwing shoulder. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff indicated that Perez's condition has improved, and he should be cleared to resume throwing within the next few days.
Cleveland's starting pitchers performed well during Thursday's five-inning intrasquad game. Derek Lowe, Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister each logged one scoreless inning. Lowe will be in Cleveland's rotation, while Slowey, Gomez and McAllister, along with David Huff, are competing for the fifth spot.
Acta joked that first baseman/left fielder Russ Canzler was the "player of the game" on Thursday. Kidding aside, Canzler made a strong first impression with a grand slam and an RBI single in the intrasquad game. Outfielder Felix Pie added a solo home run in the fifth and final inning.
Acta plans on revealing his choice for the Opening Day starter honor prior to Friday's workout. Either Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez will get the nod for the April 5 season opener against the Blue Jays in Cleveland.