GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Zach McAllister finds himself in an odd situation this spring.
Sitting inside the clubhouse at the Indians player development complex, McAllister is 11 lockers away from the stall belonging to outfielder Austin Kearns. Last August, Cleveland acquired McAllister -- a right-handed pitcher -- from the Yankees to complete the July deal that shipped Kearns to the Bronx.
The Indians re-signed Kearns over the offseason.
"It is a little bit weird," McAllister said with a laugh on Saturday. "You don't see that too often where the guy you're traded for is back with you."
During the offseason, the 23-year-old McAllister attended the Indians' winter development program in Cleveland and had the opportunity to introduce himself to Kearns in person. McAllister is hoping to have the chance to join Kearns in Cleveland once again later this summer.
"There's definitely opportunities here," said McAllister, who was selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. "Then again, it's kind of on yourself. If you don't produce, they're not going to give you a chance. I'm definitely excited to be here and I'm looking forward this year."
McAllister is most likely ticketed back to Triple-A Columbus after an up-and-down tour at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. Overall, the 6-foot-6 righty went 9-12 with a 5.29 ERA over 27 starts, piling up 99 strikeouts and 45 walks over 149 2/3 innings. At Columbus, McAllister went 1-2 with a 6.88 ERA in three outings.
"He's a strike thrower," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's got movement on his pitches and he's a big strong kid."
Indians eyeing improved infield defense
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There is no way around it. The Indians need to play better defense in the infield this year. Manager Manny Acta knows that area is critical for Cleveland to enjoy a successful season.
"We have to play better defense," Acta said. "That's the main goal, because we don't have a rotation full of guys who are going to be missing bats."
Of the 110 errors made by the Tribe in 2010, the club committed 72 in the infield. That total trailed only Seattle (76) and Kansas City (75) in the American League. The 27 errors made at third base by the Indians were the second most in the AL and the 25 at short marked the fourth most in the AL.
It is fair to note that the Indians were without shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for two months last season and the club traded third baseman Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers in late July. Both situations caused a chain reaction around the infield.
The Indians hope signing two-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Cabrera to play second base can help bring more predictability to the infield picture. The club also looks to have Asdrubal Cabrera healthy at the start of the year and Jason Donald appears to be the front-runner to land the open job at third.
"We need to have more stability in the infield," Acta said. "I think that's where Orlando comes in handy. I think he's going to be a big help to us, whether it's at second base or whatever he plays. He's a polished defender and he's going to make the other guys around him better.
"Every team deals with injuries, but you do have to factor in that [Asdrubal] Cabrera missed 50 games and we had to push Jason [Donald] and move people around. We traded Jhonny, who was solid for us at third base. That being said, it's in the past and we need to play better defense."
Acta sticking with what worked in bullpen
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta cracked a smile when asked if he had someone in mind as his primary setup man out of the bullpen.
"If we have a locked-down eighth-inning guy," Acta told a group of reporters, "it'd certainly help me with you guys with all the second-guessing."
As things currently stand, Acta's plan is to mix and match lefties Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp and righty Joe Smith prior to handing the ball to closer Chris Perez. It was a scenario that worked down the stretch last season and Acta does not see any reason to change things right now.
"It worked pretty well for us," Acta said. "That's the way it's going to start up until somebody steps up and grabs that job and runs away with it. We're not just going to be handing it out. It worked for us. If it's not broken, why fix it?"
Chris Perez does not feel the relievers will care who eventually winds up in what role.
"The bullpen's not selfish," he said. "We don't have the egos. Smitty's not mad if Raffy goes in and gets the hold. It's not like that."
Currently, the only perceived "locks" for bullpen jobs are Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Sipp, according to Acta. The manager also noted that Smith and right-hander Jensen Lewis "have a leg up" on the other arms in camp. That leaves two jobs up for grabs with a wide mix of pitchers in the mix.
Long-relief role up for grabs
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When the Indians depart Arizona at the end of March, manager Manny Acta would prefer to have at least one long reliever in the bullpen.
Having one or two pitchers capable of logging more than one inning out of the 'pen could help ease the pressure on Cleveland's young starting rotation. It could also aid Acta in avoiding over-using his other relievers.
"With the guys that we have right now," Acta said, "we're probably going to need at least one guy that has to pitch multiple innings for us."
Current options include lefty Aaron Laffey and right-handers Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann and Joe Martinez. Acta also noted that right-handers Anthoney Reyes and Josh Tomlin could fall into the mix if the Tribe determines later this spring that those pitchers are no longer in the running for the available fifth starter's role.
"If you're not pitching good enough to be in the rotation," Acta said, "something's got to give. It all depends on how those guys are throwing the ball, but they do factor into that, too."
Laffey is the only left-handed option in the running for a long-relief role, but Acta did not want to include him among the list of bullpen candidates just yet. That is because Laffey is also being considered for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
"We're not going to talk about Laffey in that mix until we make a decision with him in the rotation," said Acta, who has noted that Laffey will not bounce between roles in the upcoming season.