2/22/2014 6:11 P.M. ET
Tribe prospect Wolters' catching craft evolving
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians prospect Tony Wolters took a couple of days to think things over after the organization suggested last spring that he might benefit from transitioning to catcher. The former infielder decided to trade in his glove for a mitt and embraced the challenge.
Cleveland's task now is to make sure Wolters does not push himself too hard.
"He's a very energetic guy," said Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who instructs the team's catchers. "He's still learning a lot about the craft, but he's doing pretty good. He's just a little anxious to learn really fast. He has to take it a step at a time. He wants to learn the craft right away, but you have to be a little careful with how much you can throw at him."
Told of Alomar's evaluation, Wolters smiled.
"Sandy's brought that to my attention," Wolters said. "I'm trying to figure all that out. I've always been the one where I want to learn something and I want to learn it right then. I'm trying to stick with the process and figure that out on that end. Sandy's always there. I always see him, his eyes on me."
The 21-year-old was presented with the idea of converting at the end of last Spring Training, during which Indians manager Terry Francona expressed to the team's front office that he felt the infielder could cut it as a catcher. It had been brought up internally in the past, but finally gained steam to the point of suggesting it to Wolters.
"It was a surprise," said Wolters, who discussed it with his family and agent before giving Cleveland an answer. "I'm so glad I did it. [Francona] saw that in me and we talked. I told him, 'I trust you. Let's do this and I'm going to put my whole heart into it.' It's working out."
Wolters, who bounced between second base and shortstop while posting a .724 OPS at the plate for Class A Advanced Carolina in 2012, caught 58 games for Carolina in '13. He appeared in 80 games overall, posting a .277/.369/.353 slash line with 16 extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 41 walks. Defensively, he threw out 28 percent of would-be basestealers in his first campaign behind the plate.
Wolters said he is trying to do everything he can to take advantage of his first invitation to big league camp.
"I'm just trying to be the biggest sponge ever. I'm just trying to take a bath with it," Wolters said. "I'm figuring it out slowly. I can't hurry up the process, but I'm going to try. I just want this to go smoothly and I'm having a lot of fun doing it. I'm enjoying myself."
For Carrasco, competition an individual matter
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco has a new book in hand and a new frame of mind this spring.
While holding a copy of H.A. Dorfman's, "The Mental ABCs of Pitching," Carrasco said on Saturday that he is trying to keep his focus on individual tasks. The right-hander is in the midst of a competition for the lone vacancy in Cleveland's rotation, but he is doing all he can to steer his concentration in another direction.
"I'm going to be honest with you, I don't come in here to compete," Carrasco said. "I just come in here to compete against the hitter -- not another pitcher. I know everyone here is looking for a job like me -- everyone in here -- but I don't come here to compete against pitchers, just against hitters. That's what I need to do."
Carrasco said he worried too much about external issues in the past.
"He spoke to us numerous times about it, and he's right," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was pitching kind of for his Major League life. He knew there was a chance he'd go to Triple-A and things like that. That's just the reality of it."
Carrasco is out of Minor League options, which means he will likely open the year on the Tribe's pitching staff in some capacity, barring an unforeseen development. Right now, the Indians are giving the righty a chance at winning a rotation spot, but Carrasco also showed last season (1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 relief innings) that he can handle a bullpen job.
Overall last year, Carrasco went 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in 15 games in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He struggled mightily in the rotation, but became much more aggressive during his stint in the 'pen.
"Last year is last year," Carrasco said. "But I need to bring that mentality from the bullpen to starting now."
Carrasco is up against Josh Tomlin, Aaron Harang, Trevor Bauer and Shaun Marcum for the fifth spot in the rotation.
During Saturday's workout, Carrasco threw off a mound in his first live batting practice session of the spring, facing a handle of Cleveland's hitters. He said his tempo was too fast in the beginning, but he felt stronger as the workout progressed. Carrasco also got to test out the new mechanical changes (creating more deception with his lead arm) he implemented over the winter.
"I think he looks very strong," Francona said. "I like his delivery adjustments. It's just not a matter of him settling in and kind of taking what he has and taking it into competition. He is ready to pitch and do well. His body, he's strong. He's throwing hard and he's got all his pitches. Now he just has to go compete."
Francona preparing for instant replay meeting
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona has not sat down yet to go over the fine print of the new instant-replay rules that go into effect this season. Francona plans on poring over the details in the weeks following a meeting with officials from Major League Baseball.
"We have our session Tuesday," Francona said. "We'll go over there and look at the mechanical part of it. There will be another session in March. Two different sessions. They're trying to walk us through things like how it's going to work, not just the technology, but how the rule actually works. I think it'll ease some anxiety for a lot of us."
For Tuesday's meeting, Francona said he will be joined by general manager Chris Antonetti, bench coach Brad Mills, assistant GM Mike Chernoff and Derek Falvey, the team's director of baseball operations. They will head to Peoria, Ariz., for the first wave of MLB's meetings with teams based in Arizona for Spring Training.
Beginning this season, each manager will start a game with one available instant-replay challenge. If used and upheld, the manager retains the challenge, but will only be able to then use a maximum of two challenges in a single game. If the challenges are used prior to the start of the seventh inning, no more will be permitted. Following the start of the seventh, the umpire crew chief will be in charge of reviews.
Francona was hesitant to give his reaction to the new system prior to learning more about it.
"I don't know it yet," Francona said. "I've never done it before, so that leads to a little bit of anxiety. But once we learn it, that anxiety will go away."
Quote to note
"He likes to work a lot and you can get worn out if you try to do too many things at one time. But he's the kind of guy that you can see that he's going to learn, because he wants to. You've got to want to be a catcher. He's 100 percent in it. He should be fine."
-- Indians first-base coach and former catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., on catching prospect Tony Wolters
• Carlos Santana has looked solid at third base during workouts over the last week. The real challenge begins on Wednesday, when Cleveland opens its Cactus League schedule and gives the catcher a chance to show what he can do at the hot corner in a game setting.
"I think he's done a remarkable job to get to this point," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think the games will tell us a lot more. He's working hard every day. I think the biggest compliment is, you look at him out there and with trained or untrained [eyes], and you wouldn't say, 'Oh, that's a catcher playing third.' He's playing third."
• With spring games set to begin soon, Francona was hoping to have a better idea of the proposed ban of home-plate collisions and what the rules would be for the upcoming season. Francona also reiterated that he is against banning collisions at the plate.
"I think I'm in the minority," Francona said. "I guess I thought that if you didn't want your catcher to block home plate, tell him not to. I think we're going to jeopardize baserunners more than we anticipate. Now, they say at the college level it's worked great, so we'll see."
• Indians reliever David Aardsma, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, posted a 4.31 ERA in 43 games with the Mets last year. According to fangraphs.com, Aardsma averaged 91.2 mph with his fastball, 82 mph with his slider and 84.9 mph with his splitter. In 2008, when he last pitched for Francona, those averages were 94.5, 83.8 and 87.2, respectively.
"It'll be intersting to see where his velocity sits," Francona said of Aardsma, who missed most of the 2011 and '12 seasons due to elbow surgery. "When I had him before, he was 94-95, with kind of a wipeout split. You see the split in the bullpen [now], it has a good action to it. I just want to see where his arm strength will get to."
• Teammates of Jason Giambi already joke that he is almost an assistant manager to Francona. Over the last two days, the 43-year-old veteran played the role of assistant pitching coach. During live batting practice, Giambi spoke with Aaron Harang about a mechanical issue with his front shoulder and later let lefty Josh Outman know that he was tipping his pitches.
"I do it all. I'm a bargain," Giambi said with a laugh. "Once you've seen so many pitchers over the years, they all look the same. So, when there's something different, you notice. Hey, anything you can do right now to help the team win games, you do."