3/5/2014 3:40 P.M. ET
Masterson cites why he'd sign short-term pact
Indians righty loves playing for Francona, embraces role as leader of rotation
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are millions of reasons for Justin Masterson to take his talents to the free-agent market next offseason, but the Indians rotation leader also sees plenty of reasons to consider sticking around with Cleveland for a few more years.
That is why Masterson might be willing to sign a shorter-term contract with the Tribe, rather than demanding an extension similar to the six-year, $105-million pact Homer Bailey signed with the Reds earlier this spring. Masterson just wants a fair deal, even if that includes agreeing to a three- or four-year extension to stick around.
"It is a challenging situation," Masterson said on Wednesday morning. "Especially for me. [I'm] not doing this because we need to get the most money ever. We also think about others who may come behind us. There are a lot of different factors you try to work in. Are we being true to our value or are we skewing it?"
This past weekend, Masterson's camp presented what it felt was a fair deal to the Indians and the pitcher is waiting for the club to counter. When Bailey signed his long-term deal with Cincinnati, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Masterson -- comparable to the Reds righty in both service time and statistics -- would go to free agency next winter.
At least in terms of contract length, Masterson now appears willing to give Cleveland a discount. The big right-hander loves pitching for manager Terry Francona, has embraced being a leader and mentor for the rotation and his growing family has found a comfort level in Cleveland.
Masterson said those kind of factors "become increasingly important."
Masterson added that there is something to be said for showing commitment to a city that has seen plenty of stars leave over the years. Francona brought his two World Series rings to Cleveland two offseason ago, when Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley also joined the team on long-term deals as free agents. This spring, Brantley inked a five-year extension to stay with the Tribe.
"In general," Masterson said, "when you have those commitments on certain teams, it does show, 'Hey, I want to be here.' Not only to the fans, but to other people. People want to come here. Why do they want to go there? Now you have people thinking, 'Hmm, what it is it about that place?' There can be that aspect. Maybe not, but there is that possibility."
Tomlin's focus on comeback, not competition
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The box score shows that Josh Tomlin surrendered two runs in his outing against the White Sox on Tuesday afternoon. What it does not show is that the Indians starter located the pitch how he hoped on the hit that cost him.
All things considered, Tomlin felt he showed improvement in his three-inning appearance, and Indians manager Terry Francona echoed that assessment. Sometimes, good pitches get hit, and that is what Tomlin said happened when Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu delivered a two-run double in the third inning.
"He was really strong," Tomlin said Wednesday morning. "I threw that pitch kind of where I wanted it. I wanted to try to go inside on his hands a little bit and just try to show him that inside part of the plate. A guy like that, he can probably get extended on some balls and hit them a long way.
"So I tried to get in there and bust in on his hands. He did a good job of staying inside of it and hit it to right field. A sitution like that, you've just got to tip your cap and say you got beat. And I got beat by that pitch [Tuesday]."
Tomlin, 29, focused on the positives of the outing. The right-hander became the first Cleveland starter to log three innings in an appearance and, more importantly, he felt great Wednesday. Tomlin said he was happy with how he commanded the inside part of the strike zone against righties and felt he made strides with his cutter.
Overall, Tomlin was charged with two runs on three hits and ended with two strikeouts and one walk.
"Actually, [he was] really good," Francona said. "I think the kid Abreu is going to be good. He took some real good swings and he kind of fought that one off for that double. But I thought Josh was down and crisp and I thought better than the last outing."
Tomlin is competing against Aaron Harang, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer this spring for the lone vacancy in the rotation. If working as a starter is not an option, Tomlin might also be a candidate for a bullpen role. Last year, he logged just two September innings for the Tribe after returning from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Tomlin said he is concentrating on his own comeback instead of the rotation race.
"I don't look at what they're doing by any means," Tomlin said. "I think you go out there and you're competing against yourself a little bit. You go out there and compete, but you want to do better the next time out or get sharper the next time out. ... I don't really look at what Harang or Crrasco or anybody else is doing. I wish them the utmost success. They're still your teammates."
Sellers eyes utility role with Indians
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Justin Sellers knows that the Indians value having versatile utility players available off the bench. The recently acquired infielder is hoping to use this spring to show Cleveland that he has the ability to fill that type of role.
"I'm very versatile," Sellers said Wednesday. "I'm here to show them what I can do and hopefully get an opportunity with this organization and with this club. This is my 10th year as a pro. I've been in the Minor Leagues a lot, but I'm looking for that opportunity to just break through.
"I'm 28 years old. I'm not old, but I'm not young. So I'm hoping for the opportunity to maybe be a utility guy. If I have to play a couple days a week and back up these guys, I'm OK with that. I'm here to work hard and do whatever I have to do to help this team win."
The Indians obtained Sellers on Sunday in exchange for cash considerations after the Dodgers designated him for assignment Feb. 22. Cleveland designated David Cooper for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster, but the first baseman cleared waivers and is back in camp as a non-roster invitee.
Sellers has had three cups of coffee with Los Angeles, hitting .199 in 82 career big leagues games between the 2011-13 seasons. In parts of nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, he has hit .268 with a .748 OPS, appearing mostly as a shortstop. Sellers has also played second and third base, and has some limited experience in the outfield.
Last year, Sellers hit .270 with six home runs, 65 RBIs and a .755 OPS in 89 games for Triple-A Albuquerque.
"I got pretty lucky," Sellers said of being traded. "I found myself with a great group of guys and I'm getting to know them. It's been great. They all welcomed me. I'm glad to be an Indians, I'll tell you that."
Quote to note
"If you want to find something negative to say about Masty, you'd have to really dig. And then I'm not sure you could come up with something. What's there not to like about a guy that anchors your staff, throws lots of innings, is probably the nicest kid in the world, competes? He's a great teammate, a great person. You could go on and on."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Justin Masterson
• The Indians announced Wednesday that they have hired former Major Leaguer Matt Kata (a native of Mentor, Ohio, and a graduate of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland) as their manager of youth baseball development and initiatives. Kata will oversee the organization's growing lineup of youth baseball camps, clinics and development of instructional programs in Northeast Ohio.
"Matt brings a unique combination of expertise, experience and passion for youth baseball and the city of Cleveland to this role," Indians president Mark Shapiro said in a release. "Matt will lead our efforts to strengthen the bond between youth baseball and softball participants and the Cleveland Indians and help to positively impact our community."
• Indians manager Terry Francona is not too worried about the specific order of his rotation. Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar project to be on the staff, along with one of Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Aaron Harang. The order will be determined closer to the start of the regular season.
"First of all, I don't care about the numbers," Francona said Wednesday. "Somebody is going to pitch the first game of the year. After that, it really doesn't matter. They're all going to have to pitch."
• The Indians signed two more of their zero-to-three service time players Wednesday, reaching deals with infielder Jose Ramirez and first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Cleveland is excited about the potential for both players, especially Aguilar, who had 34 homers and 155 RBIs in 725 at-bats between Double-A Akron last season and the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason.
"This kid's got a chance to be a real legitimate right-handed power hitter," Francona said of Aguilar. "What he does in the next two weeks, it's really not going to have much of an impact besides the fact that it's fun to watch and kind of get to know him."
• Indians right-hander Danny Salazar, who has been on a conservative throwing program early this spring, is scheduled to make his first game appearance during an intrasquad "B" game Friday morning. Relievers John Axford, Frank Herrmann, Colt Hynes, Blake Wood and Marc Rzepzcynski are also slated to appear in that three-inning contest.