3/21/2013 5:14 P.M. ET
Indians' bullpen starting to come into focus
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona expected to have a few tough conversations with players before camp broke this spring. That comes with the territory of roster cuts, and can be more prevalent when a surplus of talent exists.
From the early days of Spring Training, Francona said he anticipated some hard meetings with members of Cleveland's bullpen. That was true on Thursday morning, when the manager informed left-hander Scott Barnes that he was being optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
"Barnesy, he took it a little bit hard," Francona said. "It's not necessarily the best day. Guys don't process things a lot. All they hear is they're going down. So everybody is a little different. With certain guys, you'll follow up maybe a day later, two days later, three days later, because you want them to understand the message.
"Barnesy is a good example. We love this kid. Right now, we have a couple guys ahead of him. That doesn't mean he's not going to help us this year, and he's going to be really good. But, I don't think today he's probably ready to hear that, and I understand that."
Barnes, 25, posted a 2.84 ERA this spring in six Cactus League appearances, during which he had seven strikeouts and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. Last season with Cleveland, the lefty had a 4.26 ERA with 16 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 games and 19 innings in the big leagues.
With Barnes out of the mix, Cleveland's bullpen race is down to lefties David Huff (out of options) and Nick Hagadone and right-hander Bryan Shaw. There are either one or two jobs available, depending on whether the Indians open the season with a seven- or eight-man bullpen. Cleveland is considering the latter scenario due to playing 13 straight games with no off-days to begin the year.
As things currently stand, the Tribe's bullpen projects to include closer Chris Perez (as long as he avoids any setbacks in his recovery from a right shoulder strain), setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith, right-handers Cody Allen and Matt Albers, and lefty Rich Hill.
Aviles back with Tribe after great run in Classic
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Aviles was back inside the Indians' clubhouse Thursday, wearing a smile as he was welcomed back from the World Baseball Classic by his teammates.
Aviles suited up for Puerto Rico, which lost in the Classic championship to the Dominican Republic. Despite the end result, the Cleveland infielder was thrilled to take part in the tournament and hopes it will have a lasting effect on the younger generation of ballplayers from Puerto Rico.
"I'd like to think so," Aviles said, "because I definitely think that it gives the kids in Puerto Rico a chance to understand that, 'Hey, there's a lot of good going on.' There's a lot of good ballplayers there, and it's just a matter of you've got to believe in yourself."
Aviles and Tribe catcher Carlos Santana, who played for the undefeated Dominican team that claimed the title, both rejoined the Indians on Thursday, but manager Terry Francona gave them the day off. Aviles and Santana are both scheduled to return to the lineup for Saturday's night game against Arizona at Goodyear Ballpark.
Francona said it will be important for Santana to catch up on the team's signs over the next 10 days.
"All he really needs to get up to speed on is making sure we're all set on signs," Francona said, "and the communication of the signs. He's probably ahead of everybody else as far as playing goes. He caught so many innings and was under real game situations, so he would be ahead of the game as far as that goes."
In eight games with the D.R., Santana hit .273 (6-for-22) with two home runs, one double, three RBIs, five runs and nine walks. Aviles hit .323 (10-for-31) with one homer, one double, four runs and nine RBIs in nine games for Puerto Rico.
Aviles said he received ample at-bats while away from Cleveland's camp.
"I don't know if I would've gotten 30 or so at-bats had I stayed here," Aviles said. "Definitely from an at-bat standpoint, I was able to get my work in, and the ground balls and stuff like that. I got all my work in. I feel ready, and hopefully I'll continue to build on that."
Aviles said the excitement level shown by the fans during each game was a highlight of his Classic experience.
"I've never seen that," he said. "They were so into the game and just so proud to be cheering us on. It was definitely one of those deals where you went to the park and you were excited, because you knew they had your back no matter what. That was my favorite part."
Getting a pair of hits off Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, who played for Team USA, was also fun for the infielder.
"That was more for the bragging rights," Aviles said with a laugh. "He had been telling me I was 0-for-6 against him before that. Well, I'm 2-for-my-last-2 against him, and hopefully I don't need to face him anymore, so I can hold on to that until the next time."
Quote to note
"The team is great. It's a great group of guys assembled. They're a lot of fun. It'll be a fun team, so hopefully at some point I can get up here and enjoy it."
-- Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, who was sent to Triple-A on Thursday
• Right-handed reliever Matt Capps, who was informed earlier this week that he will not be on the Indians' Opening Day roster, has not yet informed Cleveland if he will accept a Minor League assignment. Capps' agent is currently talking to other teams about a potential big league opportunity elsewhere.
"I think Matt has an obligation to look around," Francona said. "We completely respect that. For his sake, I hope he finds a job. But, selfishly, I hope he ends up staying with us. But I get that. He's very respectful. He's been really honest about it."
• Perez, who suffered a right shoulder strain on Feb. 26, is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday. The All-Star closer indicated earlier this week that he is ahead of schedule and expects to be recovered in time for Opening Day.
• The Indians informed reliever Jerry Gil on Thursday that he will begin the season with Columbus, but the righty will remain in big league camp for the time being. Francona has been impressed with Gil (2.57 ERA in seven Cactus League outings) this spring.
• Former big league infielder Alex Cora, who spent part of the 2005 season with the Indians, was in camp with Cleveland on Thursday. Cora is currently working as a guest instructor with the Tribe.
• Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has missed the past two games due to soreness in his right elbow. Francona said the injury was not considered serious, noting that Kipnis could play through such an issue during the regular season.