03/05/2013 5:09 PM ET
Smith makes spring debut for Indians
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Given the extended schedule this spring, the Indians never voiced major concern over Joe Smith's ability to be ready in time for Opening Day. Smith suffered a left abdominal injury early in camp, but had ample time to rest and recover.
On Tuesday, following three weeks of navigating a gradual throwing program, Smith took the mound against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium for his Cactus League debut. Thanks to the schedule-altering World Baseball Classic, Cleveland was able to take a conservative approach with Smith's comeback.
"Oh, yeah," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "This is almost like a regular Spring Training for him."
In his first official appearance of the spring, Smith threw 14 pitches, including 13 for strikes. The right-hander gave up two runs -- both on a home run by San Francisco's Brandon Crawford -- on two hits and ended with no walks or strikeouts. He induced one groundout off the bat of reigning National League Most Valuable Player Buster Posey and two flyouts.
Francona emphasized before the game that the team would not stress over the results.
"We're just excited to watch him pitch," Francona said. "This is where you've got to remind yourself, even though we're two weeks into our games, this is his first game. He's just getting his feet wet. His progression is going to be a little bit slower."
Last season, the 28-year-old Smith went 7-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 72 appearances, helping earn a one-year contract worth $3.15 million to avoid arbitration over the winter. Over the past two years, Smith has gone 10-7 with a 2.49 ERA in 143 games. In 134 innings during that span, he has compiled 98 strikeouts against 46 walks.
As things currently stand, Smith is one of three locks -- closer Chris Perez and fellow setup man Vinnie Pestano being the others -- for Cleveland's Opening Day bullpen. Perez is currently sidelined with a right shoulder strain, but he might still be ready in time for the start of the regular season. If Perez's injury lingers, Smith is confident that the rest of the bullpen will hold down the fort.
"I think our depth is outstanding," Smith said. "We brought in a lot of guys who can pitch. I think we're going to have one of the best bullpens we've had since I've been here. From what I've heard, it sounds like C.P. is going to be ready come April. So we're not even putting that thought in our mind that he's not going to be out there.
"If he [isn't ready for Opening Day], then we need some guys to step up and get some outs until he's back."
Numbers don't lie: Chisenhall starts strong
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Players know not to get too wrapped up in statistics during Spring Training. The sample size is small, the competition is often below big league standards and the focus is supposed to be on preparation rather than production.
All of that said, Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is enjoying his strong start this spring.
"It's early. I have less than 20 at-bats," Chisenhall said Tuesday. "But I'm happy with where I am right now. I feel comfortable at the plate. Every now and then, I feel a little rusty up there on certain pitches and things like that, but I feel good so far."
During Monday's 13-5 victory over the Cubs, Chisenhall had a busy afternoon at Hohokam Stadium. The 24-year-old third baseman went 3-for-3 with a home run, double and three RBIs. He added three runs scored and one walk in the performance.
Tribe manager Terry Francona was impressed with Chisenhall's fourth-inning single off Chicago lefty Brooks Raley.
"It was nice to see him off a lefty," Francona said. "He's a really aggressive kid. The more he stays in the strike zone, it's not going to matter left or right. He's got a really quick bat. It's just recognizing pitches in the strike zone and swinging at pitches he can do something with. That comes with experience."
In parts of two seasons with the Indians, Chisenhall has hit .260 with a .295 on-base percentage and a .421 slugging percentage in 109 games. Over that span, the third baseman has collected 12 homers, 19 doubles and 38 RBIs. He has hit .227 against lefties, compared to .271 off right-handers.
This spring, Chisenhall has hit at a .471 (8-for-17) clip with two homers and eight RBIs through seven Cactus League games.
Unlike the past two springs, Chisenhall entered camp this year with third base reserved for him come Opening Day. With additions such as center fielder Michael Bourn, first baseman Nick Swisher and designated hitter Mark Reynolds, Chisenhall projects to hit in the lower third of Cleveland's lineup.
"Hitting in the bottom of the lineup, you have the ability to score a lot of runs," Chisenhall said. "Getting on base, you know you have the top of the order coming up to drive you in. I look forward to hitting wherever [Francona] puts me -- most likely seven, eight or nine. We've got a good lineup top to bottom."
Hermida among three reassigned by Indians
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Indians made their first roster cuts of the spring on Tuesday, reassigning first baseman Jesus Aguilar, lefty Edward Paredes and outfielder Jeremy Hermida to Cleveland's Minor League camp.
All three players were in big league camp as non-roster invitees.
Cleveland is allowing Hermida to remain with the Major League club for the next week, giving him the chance to have a handful of at-bats before Minor League intrasquad games begin on March 13. Indians manager Terry Francona said the club gave the outfielder the option to stay or immediately join the Minor League side for workouts.
"We talked to Jeremy, because he's a little bit of a veteran guy," Francona said. "We talked it through. We decided that we'll keep him here another week with us, but the at-bats are probably going to be a little scarce for him. He knows that."
Over parts of eight seasons, Hermida has hit .257 with 65 home runs and 250 RBIs in 632 career Major League games between stints with the Marlins, Red Sox, A's, Reds and Padres.
Aguilar, 22, is one of Cleveland's top first-base prospects, but he was only in camp with the Tribe to get some big league experience. The right-handed-hitting Aguilar hit .375 (3-for-8) with three RBIs in seven Cactus League games.
Last year, Aguilar hit .280 with 15 homers, 31 doubles and 71 RBIs in 127 games between tours with high Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron. He also played for the World Team during the All-Star Futures Game last summer.
"He's got the kind of power that not a lot of guys have," Francona said. "He's got a lot of work to do to be consistent with his swing. I've got to see him play a little bit here in Major League camp. ... The hope is you look up after maybe 1,000 at-bats and there's a lot more consistency in that swing, because he's got really good power."
Paredes, 26, allowed three runs on five hits with one walk and no strikeouts in three Cactus League innings this spring. The lefty did not pitch last year, but spent seven seasons (4.66 ERA 201 games) in Seattle's farm system before being released in 2011. This past winter, Paredes went 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings for Estrellas in the Dominican Winter League.
• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, who received 15 stitches in his left forearm after being spiked while sliding into third base on Feb. 25, has resumed all baseball drills with the exception of on-field batting practice. Brantley might be deemed ready to resume playing in games by this weekend.
"I just want to make sure that the wound heals correctly," Brantley said on Tuesday. "It's healing great so far -- no setbacks. I'm right on schedule where I need to be. Once the stitches come out, I'll be able to do all baseball activities."
• Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, who was struck in the side of the head by a comebacker during his outing against the Cubs on Monday, was re-evaluated again on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Francona said Carrasco has passed every concussion test.
"He's fine," Francona said. "The trainers checked with him last night and checked with him again this morning. He exhibited no signs [of a concussion]."
• The Indians will play a Minor League "B" game ay 10 a.m. MT on Wednesday morning at the team's player development complex. Left-hander Scott Kazmir, a rotation candidate, is slated to work three innings and reliever Matt Albers is scheduled to work one frame.
Quote to note:
"I'm going to try to stay out of their way. I'll be conscious of them behind me. I know they can score from first easily, so I'm going to have to be on my horse and stay on top of my game, make sure I get good reads and things like that. It's nice having those guys to score for us. I wish I could hand off the baton and let them go by."
--Chisenhall, on potentially hitting in front of the fleet-footed Drew Stubbs and Bourn