3/1/2014 4:30 P.M. ET
Actions speak louder than words for Morgan
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nyjer Morgan has taken a quiet approach to Spring Training this year. Over the past few weeks, the energetic outfielder engaged in conversations with reporters, but politely declined all interviews.
With two weeks of workouts and a handful of games in the books, Morgan decided to entertain a few questions Saturday morning. Sitting at his locker, Morgan remained soft-spoken in explaining his goal this spring as one of Cleveland's non-roster bench candidates.
"When you're competing," Morgan said, "you've got to come to show what it's going to take to make the ballclub. This is the player I've always been, this type of guy. I'm always hungry. I'm always wanting to show my teammates, the organization that I'm with, that I come to win and come to help out an organization and a ballclub."
Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed.
After Thursday's win over the Reds, Francona said one of his favorite moments was when -- in the midst of a 12-3 blowout -- Morgan still sprinted to back up third base on a play. In Friday's 4-0 win over Cincinnati, Morgan made a highlight-reel diving catch to rob Ramon Santiago of a hit in the fourth inning.
"This kid is motivated. He's enthusiastic," Francona said. "That doesn't mean he's going to make the club, but it doesn't mean that our first initial thoughts aren't really positive with him. I think he's been outstanding. He's fun to have around."
The 33-year-old Morgan could be fighting an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster, considering Cleveland has three left-handed-hitting starting outfielders in Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and David Murphy. Morgan also hits left-handed, but his speed and defensive ability make him an interesting bench option.
In parts of six big league seasons with the Pirates, Nationals and Brewers, Morgan has turned in a .280/.341/.364 slash line in 583 games. Last year, Morgan played for Yokohama in Japan, hitting .294 with a .434 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage, along with 28 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs in 108 games.
Morgan's famous alter ego, Tony Plush, has yet to appear. The outfielder has kept that side of his personality -- one that has rubbed some players the wrong way over the years -- quiet to this point in camp. Morgan wants to first focus on getting to know his new team, and giving his Tribe teammates a chance to really get to know him, too.
"A lot of them, they know me from playing against me," Morgan said. "But they don't know the other side of who I am. So just being able to show who I am, that makes me feel good as a person and as a ballplayer, too. Instead of going by the hearsay of what people are saying about me and this and that in the past, now they get to see the other side and know that, 'Hey, man, if I'm on your ballclub, I'm coming with it and I'm going to do everything I can to possibly help the team.'
"It can be any role. Coming off the bench. Making a defensive play. Anything. Backing up when you've got to back up. I'm very vocal. I like rooting on my guys and just showing that I'm there to fight with you guys no matter what."
Tribe makes pitching adjustments after cancellation
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Phoenix area broke an extended dry spell when rain began to fall on Saturday, but that cost the Indians a game on their Cactus League schedule.
Due to the inclement weather, which ended a streak of 70 days without rainfall in the area, Cleveland's afternoon tilt against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., was canceled. The teams will not make up the contest later this spring.
As a result of the cancellation, the Indians were forced to shuffle their pitching schedule.
Veteran right-hander Aaron Harang was scheduled to start on Saturday with righty Trevor Bauer following behind him. Both pitchers -- two among five candidates for the fifth rotation spot -- will now take the mound in Sunday's game against the Mariners at Goodyear Ballpark.
Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson, who was initially penciled in as the starter against Seattle, will now throw a simulated game at the Tribe's complex on Sunday morning.
By moving Masterson to the practice fields Sunday, the Indians are able to keep the rest of its starting pitchers on schedule. Cleveland still needs to sort out when and where Saturday's scheduled relievers will throw. Helping matters is the fact that the Indians have a "B" game against the Angels slated for Tuesday morning at their spring facility.
New shirts give Indians motto for 2014
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona was not in the clubhouse when Nick Swisher was passing out new red shirts to his teammates on Friday morning. One day later, the Indians' manager is still waiting to get his hands on one.
The slogan "Unfinished Business" was printed across the chest.
"I missed that," Francona said. "I love getting free T-shirts. I don't care what they say."
The motto stems from Cleveland storming through September last season to capture the American League's top Wild Card spot before losing to the Rays in the Wild Card Game. It was the Indians' first taste of the postseason since 2007, but the October party was over after only one night.
The players want badly to build on last season's brief playoff experience.
Francona said it is important for the team to keep its eyes on the road ahead, and not on the rearview mirror.
"I think you try to walk a fine line," Francona said. "You want to learn from everything you've done in the past. At the same time, we don't want to be that team that got hot the last two weeks, it was kind of a nice story and then didn't do much after that. I do think the one thing it will help us this year is, when we do struggle, we know that we're good enough to come back and win.
"Whereas last year, it took us a while I think to get there. When they got punched in the stomach, sometimes it would ruin the season [in previous years]. Last year, it didn't, so that will definitely help."
Francona said he liked that the players were enjoying the new threads.
"Whether it's a T-shirt or doing a dance," said Francona, referencing Cleveland's "Harlem Shake" video from last spring, "when you're doing things together and having fun with it, I'm good with all that stuff. We can bring a chicken to the ballpark. I don't care. As long as these guys like each other and they want to build some unity together, whatever. As long as they're not breaking laws or stuff like that, I'm OK."
Indians content taking it slow with Salazar
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Danny Salazar is inching closer to his Cactus League debut.
During Saturday's morning workout, Salazar threw off the mound in a live batting-practice session, continuing his gradual approach to camp this spring. Indians manager Terry Francona said Salazar will do two or three more live workouts before advancing to a game.
"He's actually done really well," Francona said. "He's bouncing back and he's doing well. It's just being a week later, it's not the end of the world. It sets up the whole year, giving the guy a good base, rather than just for the sake of the schedule having the guy say he can throw the first Spring Training game. I never quite understood that."
The Indians' conservative approach is aimed at having the 24-year-old Salazar prepared to handle his first full season in the big leagues.
Last year, Salazar logged 145 innings between Triple-A and the Majors after turning in 87 2/3 innings in 2012. In '11, the right-hander threw just 14 2/3 innings after coming back from Tommy John surgery the previous year.
"We want him to pitch with the tank full," Francona said. "That's the best way I can put it. I think we have a responsibility when guys show up to assess where they are. ... We know where they are and we talk to them and there's different ways to get to the season for everybody."
Salazar had a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 15 walks in 10 starts (52 innings) last season for the Indians and started in the American League Wild Card Game against the Rays. Salazar is a virtual lock to open the season as part of the Tribe's rotation.
Quote to note
"No. And I'm OK with that, too. I'm OK with Nyjer."
--Francona, asked if he'd met Morgan's alter ego, Tony Plush
• The next time right-hander Vinnie Pestano takes the mound, it will be in a Cactus League game. The reliever is scheduled to make his spring debut on Monday after working through a successful live batting-practice session Friday.
"It was more like a dress rehearsal for games," Pestano said. "It felt good. It felt very familiar. For somebody who hasn't been in touch with how they've felt in the past year, being able to feel comfortable on the mound again, it feels like everything is coming together at the right time. It's encouraging."
• Swisher is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday, when the Tribe hosts the Mariners at 3:05 p.m. ET at Goodyear Ballpark. Swisher took the first handful of games off because he felt he pushed thing too hard out of the gates last year.
"We talked about it," Francona said. "He said, 'I think this could help me,' and I said, 'OK.' It's not like he's not working. He's out there every day, and he's in here early. He just thought it would help him."
• Right-hander Shaun Marcum, who is returning from July surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, is limited to throwing bullpen sessions. Francona indicated that it could be another week before the starter advances to live batting practice.
"There doesn't need to be a hard target," Francona said. "That's not fair to him. But he's doing pretty well."
• Subject to change in the wake of Saturday's rainout against the White Sox, the pitchers currently slated to pitch in Tuesday's "B" game against the Angels include Cody Allen, David Aardsma, Colt Hynes, Scott Barnes, Mike Zagurski, J.C. Ramirez, Austin Adams, Travis Banwart and Bryan Price. The 12 p.m. ET game will take place at Cleveland's complex and is open to the public.