2/24/2014 8:20 P.M. ET
Game action will be true test for Santana at third
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Carlos Santana has appeared comfortable at third base during workouts over the past eight days. What the Indians are looking forward to seeing now is how their former starting catcher looks in a game setting.
Cleveland opens its Cactus League slate against the Reds at 3:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Goodyear Ballpark.
"He continues to make really good strides," said Indians third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, who doubles as the team's infield instructor. "The next step is game action and just taking the ball off the bat -- the different angles, different speeds, top spins. The ball coming off the bat is going to be the big test.
"I think he feels pretty good about it. That is definitely going to be the next step. If he just keeps progressing, that's all we can ask."
The Indians are giving Santana the opportunity to show what he can do at third base this spring because Yan Gomes will open the season as the team's everyday catcher. Cleveland has not determined whether Santana might be a full-time option at the hot corner, or if the position will simply be another option to go along with catching and part-time duty at first base and designated hitter.
Indians manager Terry Francona was quick to note that third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who is also vying for regular at-bats at the position, has had a solid camp to this point.
"Carlos has worked really hard to get where he's going," Francona said. "Saying that, I think Lonnie's had a good camp so far. I don't want that to get [lost]. He's done a really good job."
Over the offseason, Sarbaugh spent three days in the Dominican Republic to work with Santana, who was playing third base during winter ball in his home country. The third-base coach has continued to work closely with Santana on the position this spring and has been plesantly surprised by the catcher's ability to handle the position.
"Being a catcher the last five or six years," Sarbaugh said, "and then to take on a different position at a corner infield spot, you just don't know how that's going to play out. I knew going in that he's a good athlete, but you don't really know. Especially the first day of spring, hitting balls to him, I was really surprised with what I saw. His overall athleticism was better than expected, I'd say."
Indians exploring extension options with Kipnis
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- General manager Chris Antonetti has maintained that the Indians have interest in discussing a contract extension with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis. That process appears to be underway this spring.
The Tribe initiated long-term talks with Kipnis prior to last season and has reportedly raised the idea again recently with the second baseman. During Monday's workout, Antonetti declined to delve into any details.
"For a lot of reasons, we'll stay consistent with not commenting on specifics of any negotiations," Antonetti said. "But I can tell you how much we obviously value and appreciate Kip, and we're always open to guys being here longer than shorter."
Cleveland backed up that kind of talk earlier this spring, when the club inked left fielder Michael Brantley to a four-year deal worth $25 million that includes a fifth-year option worth $11 million for 2018. That deal bought out all three of Brantley's arbitration years and at least his first year of free-agent eligibility.
Kipnis, 26, will not be eligible for arbitration until next winter, meaning he is under team control through the 2017 season. If the Indians were to lock Kipnis in with an extension, it would likely be structured similar to Brantley's deal.
Kipnis declined comment on Monday, but he has made it clear in the past that he is open to discussing a multi-year deal during Spring Training.
"Why would I not listen?" Kipnis said after new of Brantley's contract broke. "Yeah, I'm open to hearing what they have to say or what they have to offer. It'd be stupid not to. ... [Once] spring starts flowing along, we'll start talking again."
Last season, Kipnis made his first All-Star team and ended the season with a .284/.366/.452 slash line, piling up 17 home runs, 36 doubles, four triples, 84 RBIs, 30 stolen bases, 76 walks and 86 runs scored in 149 games. In parts of three seasons with Cleveland, Kipnis has fashioned a .270/.349/.424 line in 337 games.
This spring brings job security to righty Kluber
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Things have changed drastically for Corey Kluber over the past year. The right-hander existed in the background for the Indians last spring, opened the season in Triple-A and was an emergency callup in April.
Kluber is now firmly in Cleveland's rotation plans.
"I'm really not trying to approach it any differently," Kluber said on Monday. "My focus is just kind of every day, setting a goal or pinpointing something to work on and going out there and trying to achieve that. It's recognizing what I need to for that day. I think that's kind of the same approach I took in the past.
"I didn't really look at it in past years as, 'Oh, I'm competing against so-and-so. I need to go out and pitch better than them.' Regardless of the situation, I take the approach of, 'If I go out there and do my work, it'll all take care of itself.'"
Kluber went to work last season after getting his chance and it took care of his job security entering 2014.
In 26 appearances for the Indians last year, the 27-year-old Kluber went 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA and 136 strikeouts against 33 walks in 147 1/3 innings. Kluber was on a roll from May 15-Aug. 5, turning in a 3.05 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings before being sidelined for the rest of August with an injury to his right middle finger.
Kluber returned healthy in September and returns this spring as a virtual lock for the rotation, along with Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister. The fifth spot on the starting staff is up for grabs among Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Harang and Shaun Marcum.
Typically, pitchers who are not competing for a spot use Spring Training to work on specific tasks. Kluber said he is concentrating on throwing all his pitches for strikes, but the righty added that the competitor in him will likely surface once Cactus League games begin.
"For me, personally," Kluber said, "I think once you get another team's hitter in the box, it's always going to be the same. I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those guys who goes out there and just feels my way through my first three or four spring outings."
Quote to note
"There's some rules that we've got to adapt to, but that's sports. Rules are going to change. That's just how it is. If you look at it from the past, 10 years go they didn't have replay and 10 years ago they didn't have the extra Wild Card. So, 10 years from now, something else is going to change. It's just about adapting to it as we go. I think everything will be OK.
-- Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, on the new experimental rule that covers home-plate collisions
• Manager Terry Francona knows that practicing rundown plays is one of the least favorite workouts among players. This spring, the manager tried to come up with a better way to simulate the play by incorporating it into other infield and outfield defense drills. So far, Francona has been happy with the results.
"It's hard to simulate [rundowns] in a Spring Training environment," Francona said. "So what we did was, instead of just having one day, we've had multiple days where we just run the rundowns off of our drill, so it's more realistic. We try to explain to the players whey we're doing it. It's not punishment. I'm really pleased with the way they've paid attention to detail."
• For the second Spring Training in a row, Francona had no intrasquad games on the Indians' pre-Cactus League games schedule. The manager does not like intrasquad contests during the spring, but he said he is in favor of taking on a college baseball team prior to Spring Training games.
"In Boston, we played the college teams. I loved it," Francona said. "That was a way to gradually get into a real game. We don't have anybody out here to play. If Ohio State or [another team] wanted to come out here, I'd be thrilled. I loved it. We played two seven-inning games. Everybody got an at-bat. Everybody got in the game. And then you got into the real games the next day."
• Setup man Cody Allen was one of a handful of pitchers to throw off a mound in a live batting-practice session during Monday's workout. One of the hitters who stepped in to face Allen was top prospect Francisco Lindor. Back in the clubhouse, Allen raved about the young shortstop. Said Allen: "I'll tell you one thing, Lindor's got really quick hands."
• Reliever Matt Capps, who is currently shut down from throwing due to a right shoulder strain, is limited to rehabbing and range-of-motion activities for the time being. Capps (in camp as a non-roster invitee) said Monday that he has felt improvement each day since suffering the setback on Feb. 17.