2/18/2013 7:50 P.M. ET
More freedom for pitchers and hitters in live BP
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Over the last few Spring Trainings under former manager Manny Acta, hitters were instructed not to swing on the first day of live batting practice. Cleveland is tweaking that approach under new manager Terry Francona.
On Monday, Francona said his hitters will have the choice of whether to take a pitch or swing at it during Tuesday's live BP sessions for pitchers.
"What we'll do is it's optional," Francona said. "Guys do not have to swing. We kind of played around with a few different things, where it was maybe mandatory where they don't swing."
The Indians are also not going to require the pitchers to throw from behind an L-screen, which offers some protection from baseballs hit back up the middle.
After discussing the setup with multiple pitchers, Francona and his staff found many of the players were uncomfortable throwing from behind the screen. That is especially the case for pitchers with lower release points in their delivery. Sinkerballer Justin Masterson is one example.
"We found that the majority of the pitchers do not want to use an L-screen, which I understand," Francona said. "So what we're going to do is the guys, they're going to throw without the L-screen and the guys can hit if they want. If they choose to take and track the ball, that's fine.
"I don't think you're going to see a whole lot of loud contact [on Tuesday] anyway."
Asdrubal could follow Bourn in No. 2 spot
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians filled the hole atop their lineup when they signed Michael Bourn last week. Cleveland has its leadoff man, but the team is still sorting out the second spot in the order.
On Monday, Indians manager Terry Francona said All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera might fit the criteria for that role.
"Cabrera is certainly a candidate for something like that," Francona said. "Just because we want to split it up and balance the lineup."
Francona was referring to the fact that Bourn is a left-handed hitter, as are second baseman Jason Kipnis and left fielder Michael Brantley. Cabrera, however, is a switch-hitter, so putting him in the second slot would avoid having back-to-back lefties against left-handed pitchers.
Cabrera also had relatively balanced splits against lefties (.286 average with a .796 OPS) and righties (.263/.745) last season. Overall, the two-time All-Star hit .270 with 16 home runs, 35 doubles and 68 RBIs in 143 games for Cleveland in 2012.
"There's a lot of different options," Francona said. "Bourn, it's not really an issue, because his splits are almost identical. It's just trying to not make it harder, especially Kipnis and Brantley. It's not that they can't hit lefties, but I'd rather not have a manager look up and say this inning is made for [a lefty pitcher]."
Last season, Bourn hit .273 with a .728 OPS against left-handers compared to .275 with a .745 OPS against right-handers. Kipnis hit just .215 (.581 OPS) off southpaws, but hit at a .280 (.787) clip against righties last year. Brantley hit .265 (.680 OPS) against lefties and .299 (.785) off right-handers.
Francona said his preference would be to have consistent lineup spots for his everyday players, but the manager noted that the batting order against a lefty or righty might fluctuate.
"The guys that are out there the majority of the time, I'd like to have some stability," Francona said. "Sometimes, injuries or things don't let you do that. But I'd like there to be some consistency."
Francona can live with K's as long as runs follow
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There could be a steady breeze in Cleveland this summer and Lake Erie might not be the only thing to blame. The Indians are anticipating a high volume of strikeouts from their hitters this season.
As long as the team creates runs, it can live with the whiffs.
"We're going to have some. That's the way it is," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Now, the one nice thing that's changed over the winter is we've acquired so much speed that we should be able to manufacture some runs. We are, we're going to strike out a lot. We have guys that strike out.
"There's going to be periods where the team is in a funk or whatever, and you're going to see a lot of strikeouts. But the good side of that is we have some guys that really can run."
Over the offseason, Cleveland acquired Drew Stubbs (166 strikeouts in 2012), Mark Reynolds (159), Michael Bourn (155) and Nick Swisher (141). The franchise's record for players with at least 140 strikeouts in a single season is two (Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore in both 2006 and '07).
Stubbs and Bourn offer the potential to steal 30-plus bases. Swisher and Reynolds have the ability to possibly launch between 20-30 home runs apiece.
Last season, the Indians struck out 1,087 times as a team, marking the third-fewest whiffs in the American League. The Tribe's projected 2013 starting lineup combined for 1,013 strikeouts last season. The other part of the equation is that Cleveland only scored 667 runs last year, representing the second-lowest total in the AL.
"Ultimately what matters is how many runs you produce," Francona said. "Certainly, it's nice to have guys in your batting order that, with like a runner on third in a tight game, can put the bat on the ball. But we don't want [someone like] Reynolds to shorten up, to put the ball in play at the expense of his power.
"He is what he is. He's going to go up there and try to whack it. Well, go ahead."
Quote to note
"I don't care how we score. The important thing is how many runs we put on the board. Last year, the Indians didn't strike out very much, but they didn't score enough. It's a balance."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona
• Indians manager Terry Francona pays attention to pitch counts, especially during long, high-stress innings, but he does not let the figure alone dictate his decisions. Francona said there are many factors to keep in mind when determining if a pitcher has reached his limit.
"I would say that it's one of a lot of different ways of protecting your pitchers," Francona said. "Pitch counts, they can be a little false. If a guy is out there over 100 and he's not coming out of his delivery and he's comfortable, he's fine. A guy can be at 40 pitches, and he's flying open, he's in a lot more danger.
"Pitch count can be overrated. I'm not saying it is, but it can be. I think some of it is how strenuous those pitches are. If a guy has a 35-pitch inning, I'll always make sure I note it on my little scorecard, because that's a lot of stress on a guy for a game."
• The Indians have allowed reliever Matt Capps, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring, to open camp on a more gradual throwing program than other pitchers. Manager Terry Francona said Capps has been throwing bullpen sessions every third day, considering he endured some right shoulder issues last season with the Twins.