3/22/2014 6:01 P.M. ET
Indians make 'hard' decision to cut Francoeur
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jeff Francoeur walked over to a group of reporters on Saturday morning, smiled and extended a hand. The Indians had just informed the outfielder that he would not be on the Opening Day roster and he wanted to wish everyone in the clubhouse well.
That is a good summation of Francoeur's character and why delivering that news was so hard for manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti.
"Talking with Jeff was one of the hardest conversations we've had," Antonetti said, "not only because of the player he is, but the person. It's really challenging to come to a new organization and fit in as well as he did, really from Day 1.
"He's got a lot of fans here, including Tito [Francona], me and a lot of the guys in the clubhouse. It made it really hard. We're hoping he lands on his feet somewhere."
Both Antonetti and Francona noted that they will do whatever they can to help Francoeur, who was released and is now a free agent.
"We'd probably do whatever we could," Francona said. "At the moment, you let the dust settle. You let him take a deep breath. I think he's very aware that, if he wanted somebody to speak on his behalf, both Chris and I would probably jump at the opportunity. That's kind of how we feel."
In 13 Cactus League games this spring, the 30-year-old Francoeur hit .286 with one home run and 10 RBIs for Cleveland, which signed him to a Minor League contract on Jan. 6. Across parts of nine seasons in the Majors, Francoeur has hit .263 with 140 home runs and 618 RBIs in 1,227 games spent with the Braves, Royals, Mets, Rangers and Giants.
Pestano secures place in Indians' bullpen
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Vinnie Pestano is not concerned about what his role will be within the bullpen this season for the Indians. On Saturday morning, the right-handed reliever was informed that he will be on the Opening Day roster.
After everything Pestano went through last season, that news is all that matters to him right now.
"I'm just worried about helping this team win," Pestano said. "It doesn't matter where I'm used or how I'm used. I just want to be effective and make sure whatever I'm doing is helping this team get better and win."
By adding Pestano the bullpen, Cleveland now has six spots accounted for, with closer John Axford, setup men Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, and lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Josh Outman holding the other jobs. That leaves one or two jobs available with Scott Atchison, C.C. Lee, Blake Wood, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin still in camp as possibilities.
Pestano is no longer Cleveland's setup man, but he believes the makeup of the bullpen is strong heading into the season.
"I think it's great," Pestano said. "We've got a lot of different looks and a lot of different ways to get people out, a lot of different ways to match up with guys. We've got a lot of experience down in the back end of the bullpen now. ... You've got guys that can get outs in the eighth, and probably the ninth inning, pitching in the seventh inning. That's going to make this bullpen and this team that much better."
Last season, the 29-year-old Pestano turned in career worsts in ERA (4.08) and WHIP (1.64) in 37 appearances, and dealt with a stint on the disabled list (right elbow) and a demotion to Triple-A Columbus. This spring, Pestano showed up with a thinner build and more life on his pitches.
Heading into Saturday, Pestano had a 1.50 ERA with five strikeouts and two walks in six Cactus League appearances. It is a small sample size, but the right-hander has looked more like the pitcher who locked down the eighth inning for the team in the 2011 and '12 seasons.
"It's been great to see," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "I think Vinnie was on a mission at the end of last offseason to begin working to get back to the pitcher we all saw for the better part of his career. He's come into camp in a really good spot from Day 1.
"The cut is back on his fastball. His slider has had good shape to it. He's commanding his pitches pretty well. It's been a really encouraging camp for Vinnie. He's been a big part of our success in the past, and we're looking forward to him contributing this year."
Pestano said he still has plenty left to do.
"I worked hard this spring," he said. "I worked hard in the offseason to get back to, hopefully, on the right track to where I was. There's still work to be done. Just because you're on the Opening Day roster doesn't mean -- obviously I found out last year -- you're going to be there down the stretch. I feel good with where I'm at. I'm getting stronger each outing."
Johnson's versatility earns him spot with Tribe
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Elliot Johnson first arrived in camp this spring, his goal was to prove to the Indians that they could trust him at virtually any position. Over the past month, the versatile utility man has done preciely that for Cleveland.
On Saturday morning, Johnson's performance earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster.
"I kind of come back to one of the things he said to you guys," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He wanted to earn trust at every position. He really did that. It's easy when guys are getting hits to talk about them, because they're on base and they're doing things. He complements our roster very well.
"We have he and [Mike] Aviles that we're really comfortable moving all over the field. In Elliot's case, he's a guy that can pinch-run. He's a switch-hitter. He can play all the positions and play them well. That makes your 25-man roster a little bit bigger."
The 30-year-old Johnson, who had his contract purchased by the Indians on Saturday and is on the 40-man roster, has bounced all around the infield and outfield this spring for the Tribe. Heading into Saturday's game, he was also hitting at a .350 clip with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 15 Cactus League games.
Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti delivered the good news to Johnson on Saturday morning.
"It was great. It was the goal all along, to try to make the team," Johnson said. "I felt like I played and did as much as I could possibly do to help myself out and be on the team. Like they said all along, they were going to choose the team and pick the team that complented each other best.
"If it didn't work out, even though I've had a good spring, then I'd understand. But I really couldn't have done much more from a playing standpoint this spring than I have."
Johnson, Aviles and Ryan Raburn -- a trio that can handle every infield and outfield position between them -- will open the season on Cleveland's versatile bench. With Jason Giambi (broken rib) and Michael Bourn (left hamstring) both possibly out for Opening Day, non-roster outfielder Nyjer Morgan is also in the running for a job.
Francona and Antonetti also met with Morgan on Saturday, but let the outfielder know that the team has yet to make a decision about his status for the roster.
"Nyjer's had a great camp," Francona said. "It's funny, because I think his concern was the perception of him, that he can be disrespectful. That's kind of how he said it. I would say he's been anything but that. He's been a model citizen, enthusiastic, polite.
"There's nothing he has done that we haven't enjoyed, but we also told him that we don't know the makeup of our team yet, and that we will try to tell him when we know."
Quote to note
"I know as a player, it was really noticeable to me when somebody talked to me straight and upfront and honest. It wasn't always the news you wanted to hear, but you would respect it in the end. When they go home at night, the way they make their living is based on our decisions. We take that very seriously."
--Francona, on informing players if they've made the roster
• Veteran catcher Matt Treanor's left hamstring strain will force him to miss the start of the regular season. Treanor, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, has let Cleveland know that he is willing to accept a Minor League assignment. Antonetti indicated that Treanor would likely open the year on the Triple-A disabled list.
"It means a lot to me that this team would commit to me to getting healthy," Treanor said. "I've been to a lot of camps with a number of teams. This is as solid as it gets. The group of guys, the people you have in camp, including the staff, this has been a blessing to be able to come back and play for a club like this. I couldn't have asked for a better place, really."
• The Indians are still working through their decision on the final spot in the rotation. Right-handers Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Aaron Harang and Trevor Bauer remain in camp as candidates for that job. Antonetti said that he will meet with the coaching staff and front office on Sunday morning to continue discussions about that role.
"Hopefully we get a little more clarity, at least on some of the decisions after that [meeting]," Antonetti said. "But there's still the possibility that we may not have the final roster set after [Sunday], because there's some fluid situations with injuries and where guys are."
• The Indians are closely monitoring the progress of Bourn, who is working his way back from a mild left hamstring strain. Bourn has been playing catch for the past few days and took part in hitting drills on Saturday. Francona noted that Bourn has also resumed some running activities.
"He's progressively getting stronger and more aggressive," Francona said.
• Giambi is still nursing a broken rib in his right side. Antonetti said Saturday that Giambi will probably not be on the active roster come Opening Day. By Tuesday, Cleveland must decide whether to add Giambi to the active roster, enabling the club to place him on the Major League disabled list. If not on the active roster, Giambi would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus should he agree to remain in Minor League camp.
• Francona has used switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as the Tribe's leadoff hitter in a handful of games this spring. The manager said on Saturday that he was not considering Cabrera as replacement for Bourn atop the order, if the center fielder's hamstring injury lingers. Francona said he has simply been trying to give Cabrera as many at-bats as possible.
• Indians infielder David Adams, who was signed to a Major League contract over the offseason, was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on Saturday. Adams hit .281 with one double and four RBIs in 17 games for Cleveland this spring.