02/21/2013 6:34 PM ET
Francona gives Perez, others clean slate
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona met with closer Chris Perez over the offseason, but the manager did not waste any time asking about the pitcher's off-field drama last year. Francona did not feel it was necessary to go over old news.
"I just wanted to get to know him just like everybody else," Francona said on Thursday. "I didn't really feel the need to dissect that. I just wanted to say hello and get to know him. Really, it never came up. I don't expect it to again. That's kind of how we dealt with it."
Last season, Perez made headlines with negative comments about Cleveland's low attendance and the ownership's spending in recent years. The closer also took heat for an argument with a fan in Oakland -- an incident that was caught on camera and posted on the Internet -- and he was fined by Major League Baseball for taunting the Royals via Twitter.
On the mound, Perez had a solid season that included 39 saves, a 3.59 ERA and a second straight trip to the All-Star Game.
Francona said his only request is that he hears about any issues his players might have before reading it in a news report.
"Exactly, but that's with everybody," Francona said. "For me, to come in and feel differently about [Perez], that's not fair to him. I really didn't have any different talk with him than I did with anybody else.
"I think he desperately wants to win and be competitive. I think he got really excited as the winter progressed and he saw what was happening here. I think his heart is in the right place."
Gomes content with decision to skip Classic
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yan Gomes wrestled with the decision to either stay in camp with the Indians for all of Spring Training or suit up for Brazil in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. In the end, the catcher chose to concentrate on his chance at a job with Cleveland.
In making up his mind, Gomes reached out to Brazil manager Barry Larkin and made a point to speak to some of his teammates on the national team. After his conversations, Gomes felt a sense of relief over opting to remain with the Tribe.
"It went really well," Gomes said. "What was good for me was the fact that I got a hold of a lot of the players on the team and they seemed to be very supportive about it. They really understood what I was going through. That really helped out for me.
"I didn't want to be blind-sided by it. I wanted to really reach out and talk to them. I talked to a few of them and got really good feedback, which helped me out. I appreciated that."
Gomes played for Brazil during the Classic's qualifying round, helping the team earn an unlikely spot in this spring's tournament. Brazil is in Pool A, which will feature China, Cuba and two-time Classic-champion Japan from March 2-6 in Fukuoka, Japan.
With the Indians, Gomes is vying for a spot on the bench as a third-string catcher and backup option for first base, third base, designated hitter and the corner-outfield spots. Last season, he hit .204 with four homers and 13 RBIs in a 43-game stint with Toronto, and .328 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 79 games for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Cleveland opens its Cactus League slate on Friday with a game against the Reds, and Gomes is excited to get things started.
"Training is fun and all," Gomes said, "but it's cool to see different faces on the field and to see what we've all got, really."
Additions take pressure off Santana
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One potential benefit to having so many new players in the Indians' lineup this season will be less pressure on catcher Carlos Santana.
Indians manager Terry Francona wants Santana to first focus on strengthening his rapport with the pitching staff before worrying about his offensive output. Cleveland believes Santana's numbers will remain solid, but the club no longer needs him to hoist the offense on his shoulders.
"I don't know where he's going to hit in the batting order," Francona said. "But he doesn't have to hit cleanup. When you're preaching to a kid, 'Hey, catch first, run the staff and, oh by the way, hit cleanup,' you're sort of sending a mixed message."
Santana, 26, has served as the Tribe's primary cleanup hitter over the past two seasons. Now, with the additions of leadoff man Michael Bourn, first baseman Nick Swisher, designated hitter Mark Reynolds and right fielder Drew Stubbs, Francona can be a little more creative in how he structures Cleveland's batting order.
The switch-hitting Santana is slated to hit sixth in Friday's spring opener against the Reds.
"He's a very good hitter," Francona said. "But there's a lot of ways having those guys around helps. That's one of them, but there's a ton of ways -- just by the way they go about their business. When your best players practice correctly, it's kind of hard for the other guys not to follow."
Last season, Santana hit .252 with 18 homers, 27 doubles, 76 RBIs and 91 walks in 143 games for Cleveland. The catcher improved in the second half, when he hit at a .281 clip with 13 homers, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs and 45 walks in 74 contests.
Quote to note
"He does a lot of things you really like. He takes his walks. He swings at strikes. He's not a wild swinger. I know from the other dugout he's a pretty feared hitter."
--Francona, on Santana
• Francona said his use of defensive shifting might vary depending on who is pitching for the Tribe. Francona said he pays attention to spray charts and shift success rates, but there are other factors that he will keep in mind, too.
"It depends on situations in the game," Francona explained. "There's times when I feel like you try to play the percentages. If it's in our favor, yes. If there's times when you play a shift and maybe that little broken-bat hit can beat you, no. It also depends on the pitcher. He's got to command enough to do it, and he's also got to buy into it where he believes in it.
"If a pitcher doesn't want us to do it, we would not do it. There's no way I want a guy throwing a ball and having him looking around thinking, 'This is not what I want.' But then it's up to us, if we feel that strong about it, to talk to them so they understand it."
• Cleveland's first lineup of Spring Training for Friday's game against the Reds will feature center fielder Bourn leading off, followed by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis, first baseman Swisher, left fielder Michael Brantley, catcher Santana, designated hitter Reynolds, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and right fielder Stubbs.
• Pitchers scheduled to throw for the Indians in Friday's Cactus League opener against the Reds include Giovanni Soto (starter), Vinnie Pestano, Joe Martinez, Rich Hill, Mat Langwell, Fernando Nieve and Frank Herrmann. Saturday's starter against Cincinnati will be righty Brett Myers.
• Indians reliever Joe Smith (left oblique) threw off a mound on Wednesday with no issues. Smith took the day off from throwing on Thursday and said the current plan calls for him to throw off a mound in another bullpen session on Saturday.