02/16/2013 6:00 PM ET
Carrasco an intriguing fifth starter candidate
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are multiple questions surrounding the many candidates for the Indians' starting rotation. One of the more significant uncertainties is whether right-hander Carlos Carrasco can successfully rebound from his serious elbow injury.
So far, Indians manager Terry Francona has liked what he has seen in camp.
"He looks like the hard work has paid off," Francona said on Saturday. "The ball is just live out of his arm. You try not to get overly excited when you watch guys throw, but it's hard not to."
Carrasco, 25, missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. This spring, the pitcher has no limitations, and he is up against Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Corey Kluber and David Huff for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Carrasco is as intriguing a candidate as any of the others.
"There's a group of guys that are going to fight it out," Francona said. "I couldn't sit here and tell you I didn't want everybody to do well. I guess I hope we have tough decisions to make, but with his stuff, the ceiling is up to him."
Carrasco has gone 10-15 with a 4.93 ERA in 33 career starts in parts of three seasons (2009-11) with Cleveland. In 2011, the right-hander went 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 21 outings, during which he compiled 85 strikeouts and 40 walks over 124 2/3 innings.
During one five-start stretch from June 7-29 that season, Carrasco hit his stride, going 4-1 with an 0.98 ERA, 28 strikeouts and five walks over 36 2/3 innings. Directly following that run of success, he went 0-5 with a 7.92 ERA, 25 strikeouts and 17 walks in six outings (30 2/3 innings).
On Sept. 21, Carrasco went under the knife to correct the elbow injury.
"[This spring] will be a gauge for us to see if he's ready to try to help us win games," Francona said. "He's on the same path as everybody else right now. There's not a limit on him or anything like that. Shoot, he's ready to go."
Third-base job his, Chisenhall can finally relax
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Lonnie Chisenhall is happy not to be looking over his shoulder this spring. The Indians have made it known that he is their third baseman, allowing him to relax and focus on preparing rather than competing.
"I can just focus on doing the work," Chisenhall said on Saturday. "In the past, I put too much pressure on myself to try to impress the people that made the decisions. This year, I'm coming in with a little different look at it."
In each of the past two seasons, Chisenhall has opened the year with Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland gave the Opening Day job at third base to Jack Hannahan. This year, Hannahan is less than half of a mile away in camp with the Reds, who gave him a two-year contract in the offseason.
This winter, Cleveland acquired utility infielder Mike Aviles and first baseman Mark Reynolds -- both of whom have experience at third base -- but the starting job is reserved for Chisenhall. Cleveland feels the time has come to trust the 24-year-old with the role and see what he can do over a full season in the big leagues.
"Lonnie's development is huge," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It got short-changed a little bit last year, because he got hit [by a pitch]. But he's got as good of bat speed as anybody in camp."
On June 29, Chisenhall suffered a fractured right forearm after being hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Troy Patton. The young third baseman spent roughly two months on the disabled list before returning to the lineup on Sept. 9.
Chisenhall had no restrictions when he rejoined the Tribe and, following a normal offseason schedule, he is back at full strength this spring.
"I feel like it's a normal Spring Training," Chisenhall said. "I'm not coming in with any sort of restrictions or anything like that. It's exciting to come in and not have my training set back or anything like that. It's just completely normal."
In 30 games at Triple-A last year, Chisenhall -- a first-round pick (29th overall) by the Indians in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft -- hit .314 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He then went on to hit .268 with five homers and 16 RBIs over 43 games with the Indians.
Chisenhall is looking forward to the chance to tackle a full season in the Majors this year.
"I'm just going to try to not to put too much pressure on myself," he said.
Ubaldo cleaning up throwing-arm mechanics
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona kept a watchful eye on starter Ubaldo Jimenez during his bullpen session during Saturday's workout. Francona came away impressed by what he witnessed.
"I was very happy," Francona said. "I thought he was a little bit more aggressive in his rhythm. He pounded down. I thought it was a really good day for him."
This spring, the plan is for Jimenez to focus on that rhythm, especially when it comes to his throwing-arm mechanics. Last season, the right-hander ran into issues when he extended his arm behind his body at the beginning of his delivery.
Jimenez studied video over the winter, worked hard on smoothing out his mechanics and is trying to return to the style that worked so well for him in the past.
Last season, Jimenez went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA over 176 2/3 innings, leading the American League in losses and wild pitches (16), while piling up the second-highest walk total (95) in the league. His 17 losses were the most by a Cleveland pitcher since 1987, when Tom Candiotti had 18.
In the second half, Jimenez went 1-10 with a 6.99 ERA in 14 starts.
"Right now, with everybody, it's basically building arm strength," Francona said. "But with Ubaldo, it's trying to be as clean through his delivery, so he can throw the ball downhill where he wants to. I thought today he did a really good job of having a little more rhythm in his delivery."
Quote to note
"It seems like a whole different team. There are so many new faces, especially so many new starters. I'm excited about this year. I'm confident that we're going to put a quality team out there every night. Whether or not we get hot at the right time is going to be important."
-- Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall
• Indians reliever Joe Smith (left oblique) played catch up to a distance of 105 feet with no issues during Saturday's workout. The side-armer is slated to take the day off from throwing Sunday before resuming his program (likely up to 120 feet) on Monday. Smith might be cleared to throw off a mound by the end of next week.
"He's doing really well," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's going exactly like we hoped and he'll be just fine."
• The Indians have a host of players competing for the fourth outfielder's role. Outfielders in camp include Ezequiel Carrera (out of Minor League options) and Tim Fedroff, along with non-roster invitees Ben Francisco, Jeremy Hermida, Cedric Hunter and Matt Carson.
"For all those guys, it got a little tougher," said Francona, referring to the recent signing of Michael Bourn. "It got a little more crowded, but there still is a spot."
• Francona has left messages with Team USA manager Joe Torre and Team USA pitching coach Greg Maddux about potentially having relievers Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano throw in an Indians Cactus League game during their first week of training with Team USA. Francona hoped to have a resolution one way or another by Sunday.