3/23/2014 8:00 P.M. ET
Kluber working through spring fatigue issues
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes fatigue is the familiar culprit behind Corey Kluber's problematic innings this spring. Most of the pitcher's troubles have come in the latter part of his outings.
Francona said Kluber's struggles are not uncommon.
"Like normal springs, there's been some inconsistencies," Francona said. "Klubes has actually been pretty consistent in the fact that, in his last innings of his outings, he seems to get a little tired and leaves some balls over the middle. That's actually, I think, a good sign.
"Every outing, he carries his stuff, it seems like one inning farther. That's good. That's progression. That's what pitchers do. That's part of Spring Training."
During Saturday's 14-6 loss to the Rockies at Goodyear Ballpark, Kluber surrendered seven runs in six innings, but all the runs came in his final two frames. In his previous outing on Monday, the righty left with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. On March 12, or three starts ago, Kluber allowed three runs in the fourth inning after turning in three shutout innings.
Kluber, who is in line to open this season as Cleveland's No. 2 starter, said he got under some pitches during his delivery in his last performance, reducing the amount of sink on the ball. The pitcher also echoed Francona's overall assessment.
"I still feel really good out there," Kluber said. "I don't feel like there's anything that I really need to work on to change. I think I'm in a good spot. I think it's just kind of working through that, each time you go out there, that little bit that you haven't done before."
In 26 games last season, the 27-year-old Kluber went 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 147 1/3 innings, during which he piled up 133 strikeouts against 33 walks. In six Cactus League outings this spring, the right-hander has 16 strikeouts against two walks with a 6.64 ERA in 20 1/3 innings.
Eight-man 'pen likely pending Bourn's status
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Manager Terry Francona made it well known last season that he enjoyed having an extra arm in the bullpen. Cleveland is considering that approach for Opening Day, but Michael Bourn's left hamstring injury may influence that decision.
If Bourn is ready in time for Opening Day, the Tribe might consider sticking with utility men Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn and Elliot Johnson on the bench given that they can cover virtually every position between them. Under that scenario, the club might be able to carry eight relievers in the bullpen.
"It wouldn't be shocking," Francona said of beginning the season with an eight-man bullpen. "Some of it is going to depend on the health of some of our position players, potentially when they're able to come back, things like that. Those are all things that we discuss that we don't have the answers to."
Cleveland currently has one or two bullpen jobs up for grabs with Scott Atchison, Carlos Carrasco, C.C. Lee, Josh Tomlin and Blake Wood. Carrasco and Tomlin are also in the mix for the final rotation job.
Whether Bourn is or is not ready for Opening Day, the Indians are also weighing whether to give non-roster outfielder Nyjer Morgan a spot on the roster. Considering he can play center field and provide speed off the bench, Morgan's chances of making the team would certainly increase if Bourn began the year on the disabled list.
Francona noted that Bourn has been throwing and hitting, and recently resumed running drills. The center fielder, who sustained a left hamstring strain on March 16, was scheduled to begin running the bases on Sunday or Monday.
Cleveland is holding out hope that Bourn will be ready in time for the March 31 season opener in Oakland.
"That's one of the decisions," Francona said. "It's not if he'll be back, but it's kind of when and how quickly. That could determine some of the other things, too. I would think in the next day or so, we'll have a much better read on his health, as he gets more aggressive."
Francona believes Murphy will adjust at plate
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- David Murphy has endured a rough showing in the batter's box this spring, but the Indians are not concerned. Manager Terry Francona said the outfielder has been around long enough to understand the adjustments he needs to make.
"Whether it's today, Opening Day, a month, he'll find it," Francona said on Sunday morning. "He's a good hitter. We're trying to help him along a little bit, just by getting him some extra at-bats. He welcomes it, which helps."
In Sunday's 5-2 Cactus League loss to the Angels, Francona slotted Murphy into the leadoff spot with the idea of getting the right fielder an extra plate appearance or two. The left-handed hitter went 0-for-3, lowering his spring average to .179 through 39 at-bats.
Murphy said he has been working with hitting coaches Ty Van Burkleo and Matt Quatraro on a mechanical tweak that should not be hard to make. The 32-year-old outfielder noted that he has struggled this spring to cover pitches on the outside part of the plate.
"I was talking with Ty and Q about it," Murphy said. "I need to get back to where I have been in the past. It's funny how simple things really are in hitting. I feel like I'm close. It's going to be a simple adjustment that I just need to be consistent with. I feel like I'll do it some at-bats and then there are some at-bats when I don't.
"I feel like early in the game, I'm still trying to find it and get comfortable in the box. Throughout the game, I feel like I'm trying to make adjustments and then it seems like my last at-bat each day is my best at-bat."
Over the offseason, Cleveland inked Murphy to a two-year contract worth $12 million to serve as the team's new right fielder, especially against right-handed pitching. Last year, Murphy posted career worsts in average (.220) and OPS (.656) in 142 games for Texas after hitting .304 with an .859 OPS in 147 games in 2012.
"I'm not worried by any means," Murphy said. "I've had plenty of years where I've had great springs and I came out and I hit .200 in April. I'm obviously, by the numbers, not having a great spring, but I feel like I'm working in the right direction right now."
Quote to note
"Everybody in the room knows they have the right to state their opinion. Sometimes you disagree on things. That's good. I think everybody in that room is comfortable enough to know that, when we leave that room, whether we agree or disagree, we're all on the same page in wanting what's best for the Indians."
--Manager Terry Francona, on late-spring meetings with the front office to decide final roster spots for Opening Day.
• Francona said the club is still weighing whether there will be enough regular at-bats at third base to distribute between Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall. Cleveland does not want Chisenhall to play sporadically in a bench role. As for Santana's play at third, Francona has been impressed this spring.
"He's done a terrific job," Francona said of Santana, who is also Cleveland's backup catcher. "I think he looks like a third baseman. No doubt, we have decisions to make, but I think he's earned our trust."
• The Indians plan on opening the season with lineup regulars Yan Gomes and Santana as their only two catchers on the roster. That could lead to a tough situation if one or both get injured during the same game. Francona said utility man Elliot Johnson will be his primary emergency catcher.
"[Ryan] Raburn would actually do it, too," Francona said. "I asked Elliot the other day, I said, 'Just tell me you would do it.' He said, Yes.' I said, 'Good enough for me.'"
• General manager Chris Antonetti said that right-hander Josh Tomlin will not have a strict innings limit this season. Tomlin, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2012, is in the mix for the final spot in the rotation.
"We'll have to monitor his work load," Antonetti said. "We recognize he's coming off surgery and we want to make sure that we're cognizant of that, and monitor his volume. It's more us looking for signs of fatigue and managing his work load than any strict innings limit."
• Right-hander Danny Salazar, who projects to open this season in the rotation's fifth slot, is scheduled to log four innings in a Minor League game on Monday. Josh Outman, Marc Rzepczynski and John Axford are also slated to appear on the Minor League side.