02/15/2013 8:52 PM ET
Speed a tool Indians plan on exploiting
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With as much speed as there is on the Indians' roster, second baseman Jason Kipnis is hoping a kind of competition starts to develop this season.
Cleveland entered this spring with a solid basestealing trio in Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs. Now, the Tribe has added fleet-footed ceter fielder Michael Bourn to the mix. Bourn is the elite runner among that group, but Kipnis plans on trying to chase him.
"I want to run, and I want to run a lot," Kipnis said. "I want all of us. I want me, Stubbs and Brantley to try to keep pace with this guy for as long as we can."
Indians manager Terry Francona plans on using this offensive asset to Cleveland's advantage. Whether it is taking an extra base or stealing one, Francona knows the Tribe's potential for speed is a way to generate offense and put pressure on an opposition's defense.
The Tribe will be running plenty this year.
"You just try to use your strengths," Francona said. "It looks like one of our strengths is certainly going to be speed on the bases, and we'd be silly not to use it. Saying that, probably more important to me than the number of stolen bases is probably the percentage that you've stolen."
That holds true when examining Francona's managerial career.
From 1997-2000, when he managed the Phillies, Philadelphia ranked 17th in the Majors in stolen bases (416), but was fourth in the National League in success rate (71.5 percent). From 2004-11, when he managed the Red Sox, Boston ranked 22nd in baseball in stolen bases (676), but was second in the American League and fourth in baseball in success rate (75.3 percent).
Kipnis (84 percent), Bourn (81 percent) and Stubbs (80 percent) have solid career track records. In 2012, Bourn stole 42 bases, Kipnis had 31 for the Tribe and Stubbs had 30 with the Reds. Cleveland has not had three players top 30 stolen bases in one season since 1987.
Last year, the Indians swiped 110 bases (Kipnis led the way with 31), which marked the most for the team since the 2000 season. Cleveland's nine projected 2013 regulars stole a combined 132 bases last season. That is not even counting utility man Mike Aviles, who stole 14 bags for the Red Sox last year.
Francona wants Day 1 energy to permeate camp
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona liked the energy level he saw from his players during Friday's full-squad workout. He is hoping that the team continues to display the same intensity as Spring Training rolls on.
"That's the idea," Francona said. "It's easy the first day. Everybody is all excited. The idea is to match that every day. Weather-wise, it was perfect. You're not fighting the elements. And the idea moving forward is to have that energy every day regardless of what drill we're doing. It's easier said than done, but that's the idea."
Francona jumped right in to the workout, manning first base during infield drills and helping catch throws back to home plate at one point. Francona said he enjoys being a hands-on manager as much as possible.
"I like to try," he said. "As you get older, it's not quite as easy. A couple times I saw a couple balls coming over. Once I almost blew out. But, yeah, I enjoy it. You want to be out there with the players. It's important to me. But that's the importance of putting together a staff, too.
"There's so much confidence in [third-base coach Brad Mills] putting the day together. I could walk off that field, come in here and talk to you guys, and I know the day would go exactly like that if I wasn't there. That doesn't maybe say much for me, but I think you get my point."
Swisher leaves to attend mother's funeral
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians held their first full-squad workout of the spring on Friday with their biggest offseason addition absent.
Nick Swisher left the team on Thursday night to attend the funeral services for his mother, Lillian Marie Malizia, who passed away after a battle with leukemia. Swisher flew back to Columbus, Ohio, and will be away from the Indians for a couple of days.
"I told him it's up to him," sid Indians manager Terry Francona, referring to when Swisher will rejoin the ballclub. "Whatever he wants to do, just let me know."
Swisher will likely reunite with the Indians on Sunday or Monday.
Cleveland signed the 32-year-old Swisher over the winter to a four-year contract worth $56 million. The deal includes a vesting option worth $14 million for the 2017 season. Last season, the first baseman hit .272 with 24 home runs, 36 doubles and 93 RBIs in 148 games for the Yankees.
Quote to note
"This has been a pretty interesting winter. If you're a Cleveland Indians fan and you didn't like this winter, you're probably going to be mad at anything."
• Indians designated hitter Mark Reynolds, who also plays first base, took grounders at third base during Friday's workout. Reynolds played third regularly earlier in his career, but Francona said he was only at the position to even out the number of players working out at each position on the first day.
"He will play the majority early in camp at first," Francona said. "And then later on in camp we'll get him some reps at third. But the only reason we did that today was we didn't want Lonnie [Chisenhall] taking 1,000 [grounders at third] and our first basemen taking three."
• The Indians had a little fun at the start of their first full-squad workout on Friday. Assistant athletic trainer Mike Salazar lost a bet with strength and conditioning coach Joe Kessler over January's BCS title game between Notre Dame and Alabama. Salazar bet on the Irish and lost, and was on the agility field Friday morning wearing an Alabama hat, a red speedo and a belt pack for his training gear.
"I had fun for the first day of Spring Training," Bourn said. "I found out somebody [lost] a bet on Notre Dame. That was fun. That was the first part that sparked me. I was laughing the whole time. We had a good day."
• Indians reliever Joe Smith (left oblique) resumed his throwing program on Friday and remains on target to possibly return to mound work by the end of next week. Francona said Smith felt fine after Friday's practice.
• Former Indians Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga were in camp on Friday serving as guest instructors. Baerga works with the infielders and Lofton helps out with the outfielders and with baserunning and bunting.