03/04/2013 7:59 PM ET
Francona impressed by top prospect Lindor
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Terry Francona has worked hard at familiarizing himself with the organization's players since taking over as Indians manager. On Monday, he got a close look at Francisco Lindor, arguably the farm system's top prospect.
"That was a treat," Francona said following the Indians' 13-5 Cactus League win over the Cubs. "We knew he was going to come and play nine innings. Getting to know him, and watching him play, it's fun. He's a joy. He's going to be a good player."
Cleveland is currently without shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela) and Mike Aviles (Puerto Rico) due to the World Baseball Classic. That has opened the door for playing time for a few of the team's Minor Leaguers, including prospects such as Lindor, Ronny Rodriguez and Tony Wolters.
In Monday's victory at Hohokam Park, the 19-year-old Lindor went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a run scored for the Tribe. Lindor started at shortstop, where he made a handful of plays look easy during the game, and hit out of the ninth spot in the lineup.
Hours before the game began, Francona was itching to get a look at Lindor over nine innings.
"For me, that's a reason for us to be excited today," Francona said. "That will be really fun for us."
Lindor was Cleveland's first-round selection (eighth overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
In two professional seasons, the shortstop has hit .259 with a .352 on-base percentage and a .354 slugging percentage in 127 games between short-season Mahoning Valley and Low A Lake County. Along the way, Lindor has compiled six home runs, 24 doubles, three triples, 28 stolen bases, 44 RBIs and 87 runs scored.
When Francona took the job with Cleveland, he made a point to reach out to many of his new players. He was given a list of names with contact information that included Lindor. The young shortstop is not on the team's roster, and is a couple years away from the Majors, but Francona made the call anyway.
"He's one of the first guys I talked to," Francona said. "He's such a nice kid. He's always smiling. And he's obviously got a boatload of talent. He just needs to play. He's so young. For us for our staff to get a chance to watch him, even for nine innings, is really enjoyable."
Smith set to make Cactus League debut on Tuesday
MESA, Ariz. -- The Indians have yet to have their late-inning bullpen trio of closer Chris Perez and setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith available for exhibition games at the same time this spring, but all that matters is that they will be ready for the regular season.
Following a conservative comeback from a minor left abdominal strain, Smith is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday against the Giants. There is still plenty of time remaining for the right-handed sidearmer to be ready for Opening Day.
"He's going to pitch tomorrow. That's good," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday. "I don't think there was a major concern. We just wanted to make sure he was good to go and he did a very good job, and he's fine now. That's good.
"We didn't need to have something dragging out and having him try to nurse his way through it. It'll be fun to see him out there."
Smith injured his side shortly before camp opened, and has spent the past three weeks working through a throwing program -- advancing through catch, long toss, bullpen sessions, simulated games and live batting practice.
Perez is sidelined with a right shoulder injury and, barring a setback, will not be ready to resume game activity for at least three weeks. The Indians are also without Pestano, who is currently training with Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.
The 28-year-old Smith, who signed a one-year deal worth $3.15 million to avoid arbitration this past offseason, went 7-4 with a 2.96 ERA last season, during which he had 53 strikeouts and 25 walks in 72 appearances (67 innings). Smith had a 2.01 ERA in 71 games for the Indians in 2011.
Kazmir still getting a feel for his pitches
MESA, Ariz. -- Left-hander Scott Kazmir is competing for a spot in the Indians' rotation, but he is also playing it smart in terms of getting a feel for his pitches.
On Monday, Cleveland unveiled plans to hold a Minor League "B" game on Wednesday in order for Kazmir to focus on his breaking ball. The pitcher requested that environment so he could throw his secondary pitches without fear that poor results in a Cactus League setting would lead to an altered approach.
"I give him credit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's been very good about communicating with us. He has not been real pleased with his breaking ball the last couple times out. He knows if he gets into a [Cactus League] game and he throws a couple and they're not good, he's going to go away from it and try to get outs."
Kazmir, who has not pitched in the Majors since 2011, is competing against Carlos Carrasco, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and David Huff for the fifth spot on the starting staff. Right-hander Zach McAllister is the leading candidate for the fourth spot in the rotation.
Carrasco, Bauer and McAllister each logged three innings in Monday's 13-5 win over the Cubs at Hohokam Park. Right-hander Brett Myers -- a lock for the rotation -- worked three innings in a "B" game againast Minor Leaguers on Monday morning at the Tribe's complex in Goodyear.
"We know what Brett Myers is," Francona explained. "We don't need to see him over with the Cubs. We do want to see these other guys. This will be good for Scott, because he's not real comfortable rght now with where his breaking ball is. He can go down there and, if he gives up runs, it's not going to be a big deal."
Quote to note
"Having that experience last year has helped me come in a little more at ease, and not be in awe of it so much, or let the game speed up on me. I know I can pitch at this level. I'll just do what I've been doing and stay relaxed and keep working."
-- Indians reliever Cody Allen, on his time in the big leagues last year
• In the bottom of the first inning of Monday's 13-5 win over the Cubs, a comebacker off the bat of Chicago outfielder Darnell McDonald struck Indians starter Carlos Carrasco in the side of the head. Carrasco dropped to one knee and underwent a series of concussion tests by Cleveland's medical staff. After a few minutes, Carrasco resumed throwing, and then went on to log three innings.
"We made him pass every test there was," Francona said. "We quizzed him out on the mound, and we took a while. Even after the inning, we even took him up to the clubhouse and really put him through a pretty good rundown of stuff. If we were going to err, we were going to err on the side of caution."
Francona said the team would follow up with Carrasco on Monday night and again on Tuesday morning.
• Asked which rookie he felt could impact the Indians' big league team at some point this season, Francona mentioned starter Danny Salazar. The right-hander went a combined 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 22 starts last season for High A Carolina and Double-A Akron. Over those outings, Salazar had 76 strikeouts against 27 walks in 87 2/3 innings.
"You hate to start getting into names," Francona said, "because you'll leave somebody out. But the guy that comes to mind when you say something like that, for me, is Danny Salazar. He doesn't have a lot of experience and needs to get some, but his stuff and he's got that presence about him. It wouldn't shock me if he came [to the big leagues] quick."
• Indians right-hander Brett Myers worked three innings in a Minor League "B" game on Monday morning, logging 45 pitches in his outing. Reliever Matt Capps, who is competing for a bullpen job as a non-roster invitee, threw 17 pitches in one inning in the same game.