3/18/2013 3:21 P.M. ET
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
• With Daisuke Matsuzaka no longer in the running for the fifth starter spot, the competition has been whittled down to Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. Antonetti is not ready to tip his hand as to who is currently the favorite to land the lone vacancy in the rotation.
"We're closer," Antonetti said with a grin. "We only have two weeks left. When exactly we'll make that decision, we don't know yet. We haven't set an exact date for making that decision."
• Both Francona and Antonetti have been impressed by what they've seen this spring from infielder Cord Phelps, who entered Monday hitting .306 with two homers and four RBIs in 17 Cactus League games this spring. Phelps can play multiple infield spots, and Cleveland plans on getting him some work at first base as well.
"Cord's had a great camp," Antonetti said. "Offensively, he's swung the bat as well as probably anybody in camp. And I think he's a little bit more relaxed. I don't want to speak for Cord, but he's got a great energy about him. He's tried to work all over the diamond and really embrace that opportunity."
• On Monday, the Indians optioned shortstop Juan Diaz to Triple-A Columbus and re-assigned outfielder Cedric Hunter, along with pitchers Matt Langwell, Preston Guilmet and Joe Martinez, to Minor League camp. Catchers Brian Jeroloman and Omir Santos, outfielder Matt Carson and infielder Luis Hernandez were informed they will be sent to the Minors, but they will remain in big league camp for the time being.
• Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who tweaked his right hamstring on Friday, was doing much better on Monday, according to Francona. Cleveland's skipper noted that Gomes will likely be able to return to games before the end of this week.
Perez ahead of schedule, throws bullpen session
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have not ruled Chris Perez out for Opening Day. As far as the All-Star closer is concerned, there is not even a question that he will be completely over his minor right shoulder injury in time for the regular season.
"I'll be there," Perez said on Monday. "The initial injury is gone. I'm 100 percent. Now it's just trying to get my arm strength back to where I can make 60 or 70 appearances."
During Monday's workout, Perez completed a full 35-pitch bullpen session, marking his second time throwing off a mound since straining his right shoulder on Feb. 26. The closer was only scheduled to do a light mound workout, but felt strong enough to throw fastballs, sliders and changeups rather than sticking with only heaters for 25 throws.
Perez said he is roughly three or four days ahead of the initial throwing schedule, and he is hoping to face hitters in a live batting practice session by Saturday.
"I'm ready," said an obviously excited Perez. "I want to face hitters again. I'm tired of them walking by and all of them laughing at me. It's getting to be that time of year. You see the light at the end of the tunnel. You're two weeks out. Cuts start happening. Guys start seeing how things are shaking out. You start getting those competitive juices flowing again."
Last season, Perez saved 39 games and had a 3.59 ERA in 61 appearances and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team for the second sraight year. Over the past three years, Perez ranks fifth in the Majors in saves (98) and save percentage (89.1). He signed a one-year, $7.3 million contract this past winter to avoid arbitration.
During Spring Training a year ago, Perez suffered an oblique injury in his first bullpen session and was sidelined from Cactus League action until March 29. The closer logged only three official innings in three appearances and was cleared to join the Opening Day roster.
"I was still kind of going through Spring Training in April even though I got off to a good start," Perez said. "It's not the most ideal situation. The most ideal situation would be to have a whole Spring Training and work on stuff, and try new stuff out. I can't do that now. I have to just go back to get outs.
"Last year taught me really how to go about my rehab. Last year I was more of a bull in a china shop, saying, 'I feel good today. Why can't I pitch?' This year, I'm letting the process run its course. I'm becoming more of a veteran. It's part of growing up in this game."
Perez added that he is eager to see this year's team take the field for the regular season. A year ago, the closer did not have the same feeling during Spring Training.
"It's totally different," Perez said. "Last year, you could see the holes. Our starting pitchers were getting crushed in Spring Training and everybody was like, 'It's just like Spring Training.' No, not when the guys are actually trying to get outs and they can't. That's not just Spring Training. We definitely have a different vibe this year."
Report: Indians talking deals with Brantley, Kipnis
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have discussed contract extensions with left fielder Michael Brantley and second baseman Jason Kipnis, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.
Brantley and Kipnis, who are two key pieces to Cleveland's young core, are currently in their pre-arbitration years. Brantley will become eligible for arbitration next offseason, while Kipnis will become eligible for arbitration following the 2014 season.
The Indians are reportedly interested in buying out the arbitration years for both players -- plus a year or two of free agency. That likely means Cleveland is looking at a five-year deal for Brantley and possibly a six-year contract for Kipnis, according to Rosenthal.
Brantley -- acquired from the Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade in 2008 -- enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, hitting .288 with a .348 on-base percentage in 149 games for the Indians. Along the way, he compiled six home runs, 37 doubles, four triples, 12 stolen bases, 60 RBIs and 63 runs scored.
Brantley, 25, spent last season as the Tribe's regular center fielder, but has moved to left this season due to the Indians' acquisition of center fielder Michael Bourn.
The 25-year-old Kipnis is entering his second full season as the Indians' starting second baseman. In 152 games a year ago, the second baseman hit .257 with 14 home runs, 22 doubles and a team-high 76 RBIs. He stole 31 bases and scored 86 runs for the Tribe.
Capps out of bullpen running, may go to Minors
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reliever Matt Capps left the Indians' complex on Monday morning after being informed that he would not be making the club's Opening Day bullpen. Cleveland has expressed an interest in keeping Capps in the Minors, but the pitcher has yet to accept or decline that invitation.
"He's taking some time to think through it," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "We should have more information in the next day or two."
Capps entered Spring Training as a candidate for Cleveland's bullpen, which still has a couple vacancies with roughly two weeks left in camp. The Indians signed the 29-year-old right-hander to a Minor League contract over the offseason, hoping the former closer would be able to earn a role as a middle reliever.
If Capps chose to remain in the Tribe's farm system, he would be eligible to receive a $100,000 retention bonus and an opt-out clause for June 1.
Last season, Capps was limited to 30 games with the Twins due to issues with his right shoulder. He went 1-4 with a 3.68 over 29 1/3 innings, during which he had 18 strikeouts against four walks. Over eight seasons in the Majors, between tours with the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, Capps has fashioned a 3.52 ERA with 138 saves in 444 appearances.
Capps' best season came in 2010, when he had a 2.47 ERA to go along with 42 saves in 74 outings for the Nationals and Twins.
Antonetti said Capps (4.50 ERA through four Cactus League games) was feeling good with his shoulder this spring, but indicated that the pitcher had yet to reach full strength.
"He's feeling healthy," Antonetti said. "He's just working back to getting to the point where he has full strength in his shoulder and is capable of pitching the way he can pitch. We think he's headed in the right direction. We just felt there may be some other guys ahead of him come Opening Day."
As things stand, the Indians' Opening Day bullpen projects to include closer Chris Perez (if he can return in time from his right shoulder strain), setup man Vinnie Pestano, lefty Rich Hill and right-handers Cody Allen and Joe Smith. Righty Matt Albers is a leading candidate for a job, considering he is out of Minor League options. Other candidates include Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, Bryan Shaw and David Huff.
Quote to note
"I expect him to be one of our best players. Just wind him up and let him go play. He's tremendous. He's a very good defender, switch hitter, knows how to play the game. He's a premium player."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera