03/09/12 7:59 PM ET
Acta gets good news in fortune cookie
By AJ Cassavell / Special to MLB.com
But even he thought what he found inside a P.F. Chang's fortune cookie at dinner on Thursday night was a little strange.
"Your sports team will be very successful this year," it read.
Acta might not be the type to see this as foreshadowing, but at the very least, it caused him to pause and take notice.
"That was unbelievable," Acta said. "I've never gotten a fortune cookie talking about sports in my life, and I eat a lot of Chinese food. So that was a pleasant surprise."
Acta has made it clear that he isn't the superstitious type, and he reiterated that when asked about the fortune cookie following Friday's workout.
"I'm not that type of guy," he said. "You've heard me in the past, I don't use the word luck in my vocabulary. I don't believe in that. I believe in first-pitch strikes, catching the ball and people that can hit doubles with the bases loaded."
But deep down, there must be some part of him that appreciates the event as more than coincidence. It's why he's having the fortune framed.
When asked why, he grinned and replied, "Just in case."
Tribe's competing pitchers struggle vs. Brewers
PHOENIX -- At Indians camp this spring there are spots for the taking at both the back end of the bullpen and the back end of the rotation.
Safe to say no one took them on Friday.
Five Cleveland pitchers were hit hard by Milwaukee in Friday's 12-2 loss, including the four who came on in relief of starter Derek Lowe with hopes of improving their chances at securing a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Relievers Dan Wheeler (two runs on two hits), Chris Ray (three runs on three hits) and Nick Hagadone (one run on three hits) struggled in one inning of work each. Zach McAllister, who appears to be a long shot to become the fifth starter, worked two innings and allowed three runs on four hits.
"Everybody who came in just got hit around," manager Manny Acta said. "We left pitches out over the plate, and they put good wood on it."
Nonetheless, after the game Acta made it clear that he isn't making any decisions based on today's results.
"Obviously you make a better impression if you get people out," he said. "But that being said, a lot of those guys have track records, and it's kind of early just to be erasing guys just because they have a bad outing. We need to let Spring Training roll a little bit."
Wheeler, who allowed four runs in his first outing, was the first out of the 'pen, and he was hit hard. Brewers second baseman Brooks Conrad crushed the first pitch he saw down the right-field line for a home run. The next batter, Cesar Izturis, roped a double and came around to score on a sac fly.
Ray, who is in competition with Wheeler, didn't fare any better, allowing home runs to Nyjer Morgan and Mat Gamel in the fifth.
The lefty Hagadone pitched the eighth and allowed hits to three consecutive left-handed hitters. He pitched only minimally for the Indians last season, but when he did he was great against lefties, allowing just one hit in 14 at-bats.
"[Hagadone's] going to have to command that fastball, regardless of when he comes into the game," Acta said. "We don't see him as a straight left-on-left guy. We feel that he's got good enough stuff to get people out, but his thing is command of his fastball."
As for McAllister, Acta isn't too displeased. The 24-year-old right-handed prospect, who made his big league debut last July, tossed two scoreless innings his last time out, and Acta saw a lot of the same solid fundamentals on Friday.
"He kept the ball down, but hey, it's just one of those days," Acta said. "He wasn't behind in the count or anything like that. Any pitch he left out over the plate, they did the same things they did to everybody -- they hit him good."
Control an issue for Lowe in second outing
PHOENIX -- Derek Lowe struggled with his control on Friday, walking three Brewers and allowing the lead runner to reach base in all three of his innings. The result: three quick Brewers runs.
But Lowe didn't use the tried-and-true "It's only Spring Training" stance to cover for his performance. In fact, his sentiment was quite the opposite.
"In Spring Training you can always cop out and say, 'I was working on my curveball today, I'm working on my changeup today,' but when you pitch good, it's, 'Oh yeah, I went out there and was trying to get guys out,'" Lowe said. "I've always believed you try to pitch the best you can."
Of course, that doesn't mean Lowe reacted the way he would had he turned in the same performance during the regular season in the heat of a pennant race. He was in an amiable mood after the game, and even kidded, "Today I was going to work with guys on base -- that was my goal."
Lowe, who tossed two scoreless innings in his only other outing this spring, said that he never spends his spring starts working only on specific pitches. During Spring Training, many pitchers will throw certain pitches to get a better feel for them even if they don't necessarily make situational sense. Lowe isn't one of those pitchers.
"You don't go out there thinking, 'I hope I'm not going to be very good today,'" the 15-year veteran, acquired in a trade with Atlanta during the offseason, said. "Every game you go out there expecting to have command."
Last year Lowe struggled, going 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA. As the Braves collapsed down the stretch, he finished the season 0-5 with a 8.75 ERA.
The 39-year-old righty entered the season with plenty of questions surrounding him -- most of them based on his age and his 2011 season.
But the start on Friday didn't have him too concerned. He's been through rough outings before, and he says he'll prepare for the next one pretty much the same way he prepared for this one.
"It's not like I'm going to go home and try and reinvent the wheel," he said. "I've always said you learn from good games and from bad games."
Manager Manny Acta said that the Indians are "very optimistic" after Rafael Perez's bullpen session on Friday. The lefty hasn't pitched this spring because of soreness in his left (throwing) shoulder. Acta said there is no timetable for Perez's debut, as he will have to face hitters before pitching in the Cactus League.
Acta is excited to see Carlos Santana's improvement on defense. Last season, knee problems stopped the catcher from having a spring full of defensive workouts.
"He's got the tools to be a premium catcher defensively," Acta said.
Santana proved Acta right early in Friday's game against Milwaukee, gunning down the speedy Carlos Gomez with a perfect throw in the first inning.
The Indians announced on Friday that the remaining members of the 40-man roster are all under contract for 2012. Among those who signed one-year deals are Lou Marson, Jason Kipnis, Shelley Duncan, Frank Hermann, Lonnie Chisenhall and Zach McAllister.
Jack Hannahan, on the competition for the starting job at third base: "It's the same outlook every year. I think of myself as a starting third baseman, and I'm going to go out there and get that job, win that job."
AJ Cassavell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.