3/6/2014 7:16 P.M. ET
Raburn's mechanical tweaks paying off
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ryan Raburn knew the flaws in his swing when he joined the Indians, but the utility man was not sure how to fix it. When Cleveland got him in camp before last season, the coaching staff felt that it had come up with a solution.
One year later, the results appear to back that up.
"We got together and started doing some drills," Raburn said, "and kind of one thing led to another and things started clicking and working."
Raburn tweaked the way he used his lower half, adding more of a leg kick, and he focused on keeping his head still. It sounds simple, but Raburn said "drifting" was a big problem in previous years. He struggled with staying back in his swing and that led to head movement and timing issues.
Last spring, Raburn tackled those problems with his refined mechanics and the power he usually shows in the spring continued into the season.
"I learned a lot last year," Raburn said. "I really used my legs and was staying behind the ball. I didn't have as much head movement last year, so I saw the ball a lot better. The key to hitting is see the ball, hit the ball. I think the main key was that I was able to see the ball a little bit better last year."
This spring, Raburn already has a pair of home runs, including one off Seattle lefty Lucas Luetge in Wednesday's 8-5 win for the Tribe. Raburn is used to the spring success, though. Over the past five preseasons, he has hit .332 (73-for-220) with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs between his stints with the Tigers and Indians.
What changed last year is Raburn maintained that pace in the regular season. Last year, he launched 16 homers in 243 at-bats, making him the Major League leader in long balls among players with fewer than 300 plate appearances. Since joining Cleveland, Raburn has belted 23 home runs in 296 at-bats between two springs, last season and the American League Wild Card Game.
"That was really nice," Raburn said of his showing last season. "That was a big confidence boost for myself. I had a lot of confidence going into the season and just to be able to continue with it, it definitely made me feel great about myself in general. My big thing last year, man, I just wanted to have fun."
Salazar scheduled to pitch in Friday's intrasquad game
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are taking the parking brake off for pitcher Danny Salazar, but he has been instructed to take it easy with the accelerator. Working his way through a conservative throwing program, Salazar is slated to log one inning in a game environment on Friday morning.
Salazar is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad "B" game at Cleveland's complex.
"We're trying to get his gas tank to the fullest amount there is," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Thursday. "When the season starts, this will be more than likely some uncharted water for him. He's going to start a year and we want him to finish the year.
"There's not going to be an innings limit and he really hasn't done that for a while. So, we want to give him a baseline and get him as strong as we can. That's why we've probably started out a little bit slower with him, because we don't want to interupt his season."
Asked if Salazar needed to be ready to log at least five innings by Opening Day (March 31), Francona said the Indians have not set that type of goal yet. The manager was then quick to note that -- because of a day off on April 3 -- Cleveland does not technically need to use a fifth starter until April 8.
Francona did not say Salazar would necessarily be slotted into that spot in the starting staff, but the manager certainly left open that possibility.
"Opening Day is not the finishing line," Francona said. "With off-days and things built in -- you can all do the addition -- it kind of buys you like an extra nine days, if you want it. We'll see. We'll see where we're at. I guess I don't get too caught up in it, because we care so much about getting him ready for his career that a week in April is not the end of the world."
The 24-year-old Salazar posted a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 52 innings for the Indians last season, but logged a career-high 145 innings between the Minors and Majors. Cleveland has taken a cautious approach with the hard-throwing righty in the years since he underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in 2010.
"We have an obligation to everybody in our organization," Francona said, "to take care of guys and have a reason for doing things. With Danny, we talked to our medical people, and [pitching coach Mickey Calaway], and you go from there and try to make good decisions. It's really based on trying to have him out there every five or six days for the whole year. That's the goal."
Hagadone learns lesson after being caught off guard
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone was caught off guard when the bullpen phone rang and he was told to warm up during the first inning of Wednesday's game against the Mariners. He was umprepared to take the mound and the results on the field backed that up.
On Thursday morning, Hagadone said he learned a valuable lesson.
"I was a little surprised," Hagadone said. "But, in the end, I'm a reliever, so that's on me for not being prepared to go in. From now on, I will be prepared when my name is called. It's the first inning. In Spring Training, there's an order and we went away from it. But that shouldn't matter. That's on me."
Hagadone, who is fighting for a spot in the bullpen this spring, said he was expecting to enter the contest a few innings later. After Cleveland right-hander Travis Banwart reached 35 pitches and loaded the bases, though, Indians manager Terry Francona altered the plan.
With two outs, Hagadone took over on the hill, walked in one run, threw a wild pitch and issued one more free pass before escaping the inning.
"You want your guys to be prepared all the time," Francona said. "That's the hope [that Hagadone learned something]. I guess we had already hoped he was there. It's not perfect, but if he learns from that on March 5, we can live with that. I'd rather it be March 5 than April 5."
The 28-year-old Hagadone, who had a 5.46 ERA in 36 games for the Indians last season, stayed in the game and followed the first-inning mess with a one-two-three showing in the second. Hagadone could not reverse what happened when he initially took the mound, but the lefty was happy to bounce back the way he did.
"For sure," the pitcher said. "I wanted to make sure that I went out there and at least had a good inning after the blowup. At least, I was able to come back strong a little bit."
Wednesday's outing aside, Francona has been pleased with the changes Hagadone has made to his delivery this spring. The big lefty has spread his feet out slightly at the start of his motion and had reduced the amount of movement overall.
"There's not as many moving parts," Francona said. "You can see he's not thinking through his delivery as much. He's cut down on some of the drills he used to do that didn't really impact his delivery. He's a big, strong kid and he throws up to 97 [mph]. He has margin for error. Plus, he's so downhill with the ball. If he can work ahead, hitters have to respect what he does."
Quote to note
"He should be excited about everything. His stuff is electric. The more he pitches for us, the better we are. We all know that. Saying that, there's a way to get there and, just turning him loose in February, I don't think we felt like that was the best way to get there."
--Francona, on being conservative with Salazar's spring innings
• Francona said the best way to properly evaluate Carlos Santana at third base is to put his past as a catcher to the side for the time being. Cleveland is giving Santana the opportunity this spring to show he can be a viable option at the hot corner, if only as a part-time addition to his positional repertoire.
"I think the only fair way to do it is to evaluate him as a third baseman," Francona said. "Our goal is to have the best third baseman, not the best converted guy that's a third baseman. Who can help us win games the most? What's our best ballclub?"
• Francona's affinity for veteran Jason Giambi has been well documented since Spring Training a year ago. The manager highly values what the 43-year-old slugger bring to the clubhouse, but he does not want anyone to forget Giambi's importance on the field, either.
"That's why we have coaches," Francona said. "But his ability to change the game with one swing and then, when he's not in the batter's box, help change the game for the better, is invaluable. He's one of a kind. The more we lean on him, the better off we are, and he knows how we feel."
• Cleveland will play an intrasquad "B" game on Friday and Saturday. John Axford, Salazar, Frank Herrmann, Colt Hynes and Marc Rzepczynski are slated to pitch on Friday. Zach McAllister, David Aardsma, Josh Outman and Preston Guilmet are penciled in for Saturday.
• Right-handed starter Shaun Marcum, who is returning from July surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, remains limited to bullpen sessions for the Indians. The non-roster invitee is scheduled to throw off a mound again on Saturday.