2/23/2014 7:15 P.M. ET
McAllister refines pitches, adds slider to arsenal
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Zach McAllister went home over the winter in search of a strikeout pitch. When the Indians right-hander arrived to Spring Training, he brought a new slider with him.
At the suggestion of Cleveland's coaching staff, McAllister went to work over the offseason on adding a slider to his repertoire. The goal of the pitch, which essentially replaces the inconsistent cutter he featured last season, is to give the Tribe starter a more reliable weapon for hitters to chase.
"I think it'll be important for me," McAllister said Sunday. "I'm a fastball pitcher and I'm going to use my fastball anyways, but to know I have something else I can go to and hopefully get some swings and misses and give a hitter a different look, rather than sticking with my fastball, I think that'll be big for me."
The 26-year-old McAllister headed into camp as one of four virtual locks for the rotation, along with Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar. McAllister has spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues with Cleveland with varying results, going 15-18 with a 4.12 ERA in 50 career outings.
Last year, McAllister went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 134 1/3 innings and missed roughly six weeks between June and July due to a right middle finger injury. The big right-hander threw a fastball, splitter, curveball, changeup and cutter last season.
The Indians felt the pitcher could benefit from reorganizing that pitch arsenal.
"McAllister did a really nice job of working on a slider and his split in the offseason," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "His slider is noticeably different this year. It looks really good. Last year, he threw a cutter and a curveball, and he kind of banged his cutter and started throwing a little bit of a power slider this year. It looks pretty good.
"He started throwing the split last year, but was kind of inconsistent with it. So if we can get a good secondary pitch for him -- like that good slider and that split -- for wipeout pitches, he's going to be pretty good. That was kind of the goal for this year."
Bauer ready to test mechanics in Cactus opener
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Trevor Bauer did not feel right on the mound during his first live batting-practice session Friday. When the Indians starter went back and examined the video, he was surprised to see his retooled mechanics were in order.
"It looked good," Bauer said Sunday. "That's kind of a positive thing for me, that even when I don't feel very good, it still looks how I want it to. That's a good sign. We'll see what happens when the hitter steps in and there's a defense back there and everything kind of starts."
That step will arrive Wednesday, when Bauer is scheduled to log one inning as the starter for the Indians in their Cactus League opener against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Indians manager Terry Francona warned against reading too much into the fact that Bauer -- one of the candidates for the lone vacancy in the rotation -- is starting the first spring game.
All it means for now is that Bauer will get to test his new mechanics in a game environment.
Throughout last season, and over the course of the winter months, the 23-year-old Bauer went to work on a series of adjustments. It began with a lower-half alteration with the aim of reducing injury risk and continued this past offseason with changes to his lead arm and upper half. Francona has been pleased with what he has seen to this point in camp.
"We're pretty encouraged. His delivery looks good," Francona said. "Looking at his video and watching his first bullpen, his hands are separating better to where he can catch up. I thought he looked better. I thought he looked more like the guy you probably saw coming out of college."
Bauer was a key piece in a nine-player, three-team trade that the Indians swung two winters ago. In his first tour with the Tribe last season, though, the young righty had a 4.15 ERA with 73 walks in 121 1/3 innings at Triple-A and posted a 5.29 ERA with more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) in a four-start stint at the big league level.
No one was more upset over his performance than Bauer.
"I'm just trying to pitch to a level that I can be satisfied with," Bauer said. "I didn't pitch up to my personal standards last year by any means and it was frustrating for me, going out there and knowing I can be so much better than I was showing. My goal is to come in and pitch how I know I can pitch. We'll see where I end up after that. Mostly, I just want to enjoy playing baseball. Last year wasn't any fun.
"It's definitely nice to be working with people that are on the same page with kind of what I'm trying to do. I don't look at anything as final. If I have a good outing, I'm not good. It's just a good outing. If I have a bad outing, I'm not terrible. It's just a bad outing along the process. It's nice to have people kind of look at things the same way and are willing to look at the future, a year out, two years out, five, 10 years out, and try to plan for that."
Cautious Indians taking it easy with Salazar
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians took extra precautions throughout last season to protect the powerful arm of pitcher Danny Salazar, and the club has adopted the same approach this spring.
As an assortment of Cleveland's pitchers worked through live batting-practice sessions over the past three days, Salazar has limited his throwing to routine bullpen workouts. Salazar said Sunday that there is no injury behind the conservative schedule.
"We're just sticking with a program," Salazar said. "It's not just for now, but for the whole season. It's going to be a long season, so right now we're just in a slow period, just because of that. It's not tough for me to deal with, because it's just workouts right now."
Salazar, 24, underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2010 and the Indians have taken a careful approach with his innings in the past few years. After logging just 14 2/3 innings in 2011, Salazar increased to 87 2/3 innings in '12 and then 145 innings in '13. The last figure includes his time at both Triple-A and in the Major Leagues last season.
In 10 outings with the Indians last summer, Salazar posted a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts against 15 walks in 52 innings. He became a fixture in the rotation down the stretch, earned the nod to start in the American League Wild Card Game and now enters camp a virtual lock for the rotation.
Cleveland wants to do all it can to make sure the hard-throwing Salazar can handle a full campaign.
"We're just trying to be smart more than anything," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "He's a guy that throws hard and you want to make sure that we can control that and still get something out of it. He's on the same schedule as everybody else; he's just pushed back a little bit."
Quote to note
"It's my first Spring Training where I actually get to come back to a team that I know. I know some of the guys here in the clubhouse, so I can shoot the breeze with them and know the routines and stuff like that. My first two Spring Trainings, everything was brand-new and it was uncomfortable. I'm a lot more comfortable and I've been enjoying my time out here so far."
-- Indians pitching prospect Trevor Bauer
• For the second spring in a row, veteran Jason Giambi agreed to come to camp with the Indians as a non-roster invitee. Like last year, it would not be surprising to see the 43-year-old slugger make the Opening Day roster as a pinch-hitter and part-time designated hitter.
"Guys have to be able to help us win games," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "G showed that last year, in a number of different ways. Like everybody else, we're tying to get G ready for a long season. That's our goal in Spring Training. We want G to help us."
• There has been some debate this spring about whether the Indians will open the season with seven or eight relievers in the bullpen. Francona likes having as many arms in the fold as possible, but the manager is not about to tip his hand this early in camp as to the club's thinking.
"We haven't named anybody," Francona said. "I don't even know how many we're going to carry. It's just way too early to start thinking about spots. Those things will all work themselves out as camp goes. We haven't even played a game yet, let alone make a cut yet and things like that."
• Indians closer John Axford believes pitching in the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada last spring played a role in his diminished velocity with the Brewers last April. Axford is glad he doesn't need to decide about whether to take part in the event again until 2017.
"I don't know," Axford said about potentially playing in the tournament in the future. "I still have a few years to think about that and see where my health is and how I feel in that moment. If I do take part, I'll definitely prepare myself better and differently than I did last year."
• Five of the Indians' Spring Training games will be aired on MLB Network in Cleveland this year. MLBN will broadcast Tribe games on March 15 (at White Sox at 12 a.m. ET), March 23 (at Angels live at 4 p.m. ET), March 24 (at Reds live at 4 p.m. ET) and March 29 (at Padres at 10 a.m. ET and at Padres live at 4 p.m. ET).