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3/27/2013 6:29 P.M. ET

Brantley emerging as leader on and off field

GLENDALE, Ariz.-- Earlier this spring, left fielder Michael Brantley shared with new Indians manager Terry Francona that he felt forced into a leadership role when things got rough for the Tribe last season. As a younger player, Brantley was not sure he was supposed to accept that role and run with it.

Francona wants Brantley to embrace being a leader.

"That's exactly what I told him, to just be himself," Francona said. "He doesn't have a ton of time in the big leagues, but that doesn't mean he can't do that. I would love for guys to follow his example. He does everything right. He's easy, man. You just wind him up, let him go play and see how good he can be."

Over the past three years, Brantley has improved across the board.

Consider that Brantley's batting average has risen from .246 to .266 to .288 over the last three seasons, respectively. His on-base percentage (.296, .318, .348), slugging percentage (.327, .384, .402) and OPS (.623, .702, .750) have followed suit over the 2010-12 campaigns.

Last season, the outfielder added six home runs, 37 doubles, 60 RBIs and 63 runs scored in 149 games.

Through 14 Cactus League games this spring, Brantley hit at a .405 (15-for-37) clip with one homer, five doubles, six runs and nine RBIs for Cleveland.

Francona is not about to guess what kind of numbers Brantley might turn in this year.

"We don't know. You never know," Francona said. "That's the fun part of baseball. You never know how much power guys are going to grow into."

In this case, growing into a leadership role is easier to predict.

"He's about as professional as you're going to find," Francona said. "He exhibits all kind of leadership traits. He's a good player that's getting better. That's very exciting for the organization. He's everything I had heard. You read every scouting report and you talk to him, he's just a great kid."

Hagadone eager for fresh start in Cleveland

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A wave of feelings went through Nick Hagadone when he learned he was going to be included in the Indians' Opening Day bullpen. Given the unfortunate way his season ended last summer, the lefty was thrilled to receive the chance at a fresh start right out of the gates.

"It's hard to describe," said Hagadone, referring to how he felt when he received the good news on Monday. "I think we have something special here, so to have the opportunity to be a part of that, it's going to be amazing. I'm so excited to get going. I can't wait to get started and contribute."

The 27-year-old Hagadone impressed Cleveland this spring by turning in 8 1/3 shutout innings through nine Cactus League appearances. In that span, the lefty piled up 11 strikeouts, scattered five hits and issued only two walks with a .167 opponents' batting average.

That showing is similar to how Hagadone performed early on for the Tribe last year.

In his first 17 games for Cleveland in 2012, Hagadone posted a 2.04 ERA with 16 strikeouts, seven walks and a .148 opponents' average through 17 2/3 innings. Over his final 10 appearances, though, the southpaw posted a 16.43 ERA and hitters had a .447 average against him. He allowed 17 hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings during that period.

After his last outing on July 6, Hagadone headed into the tunnel behind the dugout at Progressive Field and broke the radius bone in his left forearm when slamming a door in anger. He was subsequently optioned to Triple-A and placed on the Minor League Disqualified List because of the self-inflicted injury and then underwent surgery.

The details of that situation -- a grievance was filed by the pitcher due to service time and financial issues -- are still being worked out between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association.

Hagadone wants to put that episode behind him.

"Being able to come back and make the team after how last year ended is a big step," Hagadone said. "Hopefully, we can move on from 2012 and just go from there. Going through stretches like that, and being able to make changes, are really important for future success. You can learn from the worst times. June was probably the worst month I've had as a pitcher at any level.

"Being able to take something away from that, learning how important it is to work ahead in the count and not be as predictable as I was, I think that's huge going forward."

Versatility helps Raburn earn spot on bench

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Raburn knew he had to come out swinging this spring. The veteran utility man was invited to Cleveland's camp as a non-roster player and given an opportunity to compete for a spot on the Indians' bench.

Raburn grabbed the job by the horns and refused to let go.

"I had to," Raburn said. "I didn't have the luxury of coming in and just kind of feeling my way and getting ready for the season. I had to come in and prove I could still play."

Indians manager Terry Francona called Raburn into his office on Monday and informed the infielder that he would be included on the team's Opening Day bench. Throughout this spring, Raburn displayed an effective swing, showed off some power and proved to the Tribe's decision-makers that he could be an option for second base, third base and the outfield corners.

That versatility helped Raburn win the job.

"He's got a short, quick stroke," Francona said. "I think it's a swing that can lend itself to maybe not playing every day. This is a guy that a year ago came out of Spring Training as an everyday player, and everybody kept raving about him and he was set to have a big year. He got off to a slow start. That's part of the reason we were able to get him. His versatility really helps us."

A year ago, the 31-year-old Raburn was in the Opening Day lineup for the Tigers. It was easy to see why Detroit gave him a chance as a starter, too. Over the 2009-11 seasons in the Motor City, Raburn hit .274 with a .329 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage, averaging 15 home runs, 19 doubles, 52 RBIs and 116 games per season.

Last season, though, Raburn's production dropped off. He hit .171 in 66 games for the Tigers, who sent him down to Triple-A Toledo in May. Raburn also had two stints on the disabled list.

This spring, Raburn has been on a tear, hitting .357 (15-for-42) with five home runs, 10 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs through 21 Cactus League contests.

"I'm glad to put last year behind us," Raburn said. "I'm starting a new year this year with a great ballclub. I think it's going to be a blast and I'm looking forward to having a great year. I know I can still play. Last year was just one of those bad years. It seemed like everything went the wrong way.

"More than anything, I think it was great to have the opportunity to come back and show that I can still play. It's just beginning. We have a long season ahead of us and I plan on contributing as much as I can."

McGuiness sent back to Rangers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Indians were hoping to find a way to keep first baseman Chris McGuiness in their system, but in the end the Rangers wanted him back.

On Wednesday, Cleveland returned McGuiness -- acquired from Texas during December's Rule 5 Draft -- to the Rangers for a cost of $25,000. The Tribe's 40-man roster now has 39 players, which potentially clears a spot for non-roster utility man Ryab Raburn to be added to the roster before Opening Day.

"I've said it before, I wish he wasn't a Rule 5," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday. "It's hard for a position player to skip Triple-A and come to the big leagues. It's not altogether fair to expect them to be able to put up numbers. There's so much to like about him."

Cleveland spent $50,000 to select the 24-year-old McGuiness in the Rule 5 Draft. Players added in that manner must remain on the acquiring team's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the original club at half the cost. It became clear this spring that McGuiness -- with no career at-bats above Double-A -- was not going to make the Indians' roster.

McGuiness hit .195 (8-for-41) in 24 Cactus League games this spring.

"I couldn't ask for anything else," McGuiness said Tuesday of his playing time. "I was in there every day. I got 40 at-bats. You couldn't have asked for more chances. I started a few games. The chances were there. I just couldn't really get into a groove. I couldn't find a rhythm, but that's part of baseball. It goes and comes. It's one of those springs."

Last season, McGuiness hit .268 with 23 home runs, 25 doubles and 77 RBIs in 123 games for Double-A Frisco in the Rangers system. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the Arizona Fall League after hitting .283 with four homers and 27 RBIs in 25 games for Surprise in the offseason.

Quote to note

"I think we've accomplished pretty much everything we set out to. I think we're prepared for the season. If you could bottle it, believe me, you would. I've left camp in years thinking, 'OK, here we go,' and one year we started off 0-6. You don't know. That's why you prepare the best you can. I think we're ready to play."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona

Smoke signals

• The Indians will open this season with utililty men Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn on their bench. Both players have served as everyday players in the past, making the first few weeks important for their transition back to reserve roles with Cleveland this year.

"The hardest thing will be the first couple weeks of the season," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You're trying to get guys locked in. That's a little bit of a trying time for the bench, because you get guys routine at-bats out here -- every other day or something -- and then the season starts."

• All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who has missed the past four games with a back issue, resumed hitting drills during Wednesday's team workout. Francona said the team is taking a cautious approach with Cabrera in order to get him ready for Opening Day. The manager indicated that the shortstop would likely sit out at least one more game.

• Right-hander Zach McAllister and lefty Scott Kazmir -- Cleveland's fourth and fifth starters, respectively -- will pitch in Minor League games as their final tuneups for the regular season. Kazmir is scheduled to pitch next on Saturday and McAllister will work on Sunday.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.