GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians currently have a wide-open competition brewing this spring for the backup-catching job. Lou Marson is the only backup candidate on Cleveland's 40-man roster, but that does not mean he is necessarily the favorite to land the job.
"He's here to battle for the backup job," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's battling those other guys."
The "other guys" include non-roster invitees Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca. Minor League catching prospect Chun Chen is also a non-roster invitee for the Indians, but he is on hand to help handle the bullpen sessions for the many pitchers currently in camp, not to compete for a big league job.
Marson spent 87 games with Cleveland last year, but the 24-year-old catcher -- acquired from the Phillies in the July 2009 trade that originally sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia -- hit at a .195 clip while in the Majors. Acta said the Indians need to decide if Marson would benefit from regular playing time at Triple-A.
"It is a decision we're going to have to make at the end of camp," Acta said. "We want to do what's best for Lou, but we also want to leave with the best guys. If we can come up with enough opportunity for Lou with him up here, and we think we're better with him here as the backup, then that's what we'll do."
Entering into the equation is the fact that starting catcher Carlos Santana will see some time as a first baseman and designated hitter this season. The Tribe wants to keep Santana's legs fresh with days off from catching, especially considering he is returning from a left knee injury, but the club still wants to find ways to keep his bat in the lineup.
Acta noted that Eduardo Perez (recently hired as a special assistant to baseball operations) and Mike Hargrove (a special advisor to the club as well as a former player and manager) will work with Santana at first base this spring.
Indians' top pitching prospects bring hope
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta stood behind a row of mounds, folded his arms across his chest and took a look into the future of his ballclub.
Working through bullpen sessions during Cleveland's first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Thursday were pitching prospects Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone and Bryce Stowell. Acta could not help but smile as he watched them firing off pitch after pitch.
"That was fun," Acta said. "I don't know how they were able to put that group together, but it was beautiful to see those four guys. I was just talking to some of our coaches and I said, 'This is it. This is the next wave right here.' It's exciting."
White and Pomeranz -- Cleveland's first-round picks in the 2009 and 2010 First-Year Player Drafts, respectively -- are important pieces within the club's long-term rotation plans. White is attending his second big league camp, while Pomeranz is getting a taste of the Major League environment for the first time.
Both pitchers are having fun being around so many talented young arms.
"It's been a great blessing to be around the talented players we have," White said. "We all know that we're very young, but we're also very talented, and every one of us to a man is looking forward to the future and helping this club win."
"It's exciting," added Pomeranz. "Just being here is exciting. I feel like everybody here is kind of a young guy. There's a lot of young people around here, but it's also good to know because all the young guys have a chance. That's fun to be a part of."
White, who went 10-10 with a 2.45 ERA over 26 games between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron in 2010, will likely open the upcoming season with Triple-A Columbus. It is possible that the 22-year-old right-hander will be fitted for an Indians uniform later this summer.
Pomeranz, 22, is entering his first professional season and is on a similar path as White. The 6-foot-5 lefty will likely open the year with a Class A affiliate with the goal of possibly reaching Double-A later this year. Pomeranz will not likely be part of the Tribe's rotation picture until 2012 or '13.
"Basically, I'm just being a student of the game here," Pomeranz said. "I just hope to have a solid first year in the Minors and build on every outing like I've done my entire life. Obviously, pro ball is going to be a little different."
Acta delivers positive message before workout
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Prior to taking the practice fields on Thursday morning, Indians pitchers and catchers met in the clubhouse with manager Manny Acta before the team's first official workout of the spring. Acta wanted to deliver a season-opening message.
"It was a time for me to get them together," Acta said, "and actually let them know how good they were last year during the second half of the season. We understand that the season is 162 games and there are two halves to it, but if you're going to dwell on something, I think you should dwell on the second half of the season."
Acta said he made sure the pitchers and catchers -- primarily the same cast from last season's strong second half -- knew just how well they performed after the All-Star break. The Tribe's pitching staff ranked fourth in the American League in second-half ERA (3.89) and second in the league in bullpen ERA (2.95) over that same span.
That is a main reason for Acta's belief that the Indians -- even after a 93-loss showing in 2010 -- can surprise baseball in the upcoming campaign.
"That's why my expectations and our expectations are to win," said Acta, referring to the strong pitching performance down the stretch last year. "We really liked what we saw in the second half and really wanted to let them know that pitching is the heart and soul of baseball.
"That was the message today."