GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A few days ago, Indians reliever Joe Smith expressed some doubt about being able to get ready in time for Opening Day. On Wednesday morning, Smith was singing a different tune.
"My goal is still to break camp with the team," said Smith, who has been sidelined for two weeks with a strained abdominal muscle. "Until they tell me I'm not going, I'm going to do all I can to get ready as quick as possible."
Smith's improved spirits came after he played catch for the third consecutive day, building up to a distance of 90 feet. The right-hander will up the distance to more than 100 feet on Thursday and it's possible that he could make his way back on a mound by this weekend.
Smith, who has not pitched in a game since March 9, said that he is not currently feeling any discomfort. If he is able to get back to 100 percent prior to Opening Day, he would have a spot in the bullpen. That said, the Indians will likely maintain a conservative approach with his return.
Last season, Smith went 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 53 appearances out of Cleveland's bullpen. He is scheduled to earn $870,000 this season.
Germano earning his ticket back to bullpen
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For nine days in late December, Justin Germano was in pitching purgatory. He was designated for assignment by the Indians and unsure of what his future held.
That was until Germano received a phone call from Indians general manager Chris Antonetti.
"Chris was straight up with me," Germano said on Wednesday morning. "He just said, 'We had a tough roster move to make. We'd still like to bring you in to compete for a job.' Basically, he just said I still had a good chance to make the team."
After being removed from the 40-man roster, Germano accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus on Dec. 31, agreeing to head to camp as a non-roster invitee. With a week remaining until Cleveland departs Arizona, Germano is now in a great position to make the Opening Day bullpen.
2010 Spring Training - Cleveland Indians
News & Features
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- Quote to note
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- Despite being sent down, Carrasco proud of effort
- Smoke signals
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Germano has quietly pieced together an impressive spring showing.
"He has," Indians manager Manny Acta agreed. "That's the way he goes about his business. He just lays in the weeds, throws strikes, gets people out. He did that for us last year and he's doing that here in camp, too."
Through six Cactus League appearances, Germano has not allowed a run over seven innings of work. His ability to log multiple innings makes him a prime candidate for a long-relief role. With a relatively young rotation, Acta wants to carry one or two pitchers capable of multi-inning outings.
Last year with the Indians, the 28-year-old Germano posted a 3.31 ERA in 23 games for the Indians, piling up 35 1/3 innings along the way. Germano spent the first half of the season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, but stuck with the Tribe after being promoted on July 30.
As things currently stand, there are two -- possibly three -- spots available in Cleveland's bullpen. The relievers vying for those jobs include Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann, Doug Mathis, Jess Todd and Germano. Smith is trying to returrn quickly from a strained upper abdominal muscle.
Among the candidates, only Germano and Mathis are not a part of the Tribe's 40-man roster. When Spring Training began, though, Acta and Antonetti met with each player individually to let them know where they stood. They reiterated to Germano that his contract status was not hinder his part in the bullpen competition.
"They told me being on the roster, not being on the roster, doesn't really matter," Germano said. "They said they were going to take the best 25 guys and I had the same opportunity I'd have even if I was on the roster.
"You definitely think your chances change a little bit when you're not on that roster. The fact that they came out and pretty much said that on their own, without me asking, it's a little more comforting."
Sizemore slated to play in Minors game
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grady Sizemore is scheduled to play in a Minor League game for the Indians on Thursday afternoon instead of in the team's night game against the Giants in Scottsdale.
"He's probably going to hit second in every inning," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That way he can have at least five at-bats instead of just three over there."
Acta noted that Sizemore -- making his way back from June microfracture surgery on his left knee -- will serve as a designated hitter. Sizemore made his spring game debut as a DH on Sunday and manned center field for the first time during a game on Tuesday.
Acta added that the decision was not a sign that Sizemore would be limited to Minor League games for the remainder of Spring Training.
"No," Acta said. "I want to see him."
Through two Cactus League games, Sizemore has gone 0-for-4 at the plate for Cleveland. The center fielder will open the season on the disabled list and there is no established timetable for when he might rejoin the club.
Buck taking hitting cue from Choo
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Travis Buck arrived in camp with the Indians in early January, one of the first players he began working with was Shin-Soo Choo. It didn't take long for Buck to develop a case of swing envy.
"I watched Choo work," Buck said. "I was like, 'I want to hit like that.'"
Buck began discussing swing mechanics with Choo and the outfielder then began retooling his technique with hitting coach Jon Nunnally. Buck said he gave his swing an overhaul, concentrating on his hands and having a more direct path to the baseball.
After all, it has worked exceptionally well for Choo.
"Seeing how Choo was swinging, I was like, 'Wow,'" Buck said. "The ball sounds different coming off his bat. I've worked with him a lot and watched him. I went kind of through the same process that he did a couple years ago.
"I knew the numbers he put up in years past, but just seeing how he works at his craft in the cage every day, I've tried to pick up as much as I can. It's definitely great to see the results."
The early results have been staggering. Through 16 Cactus League games, all Buck has done is hit .435 with four home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs in 46 at-bats. In Tuesday's 7-3 victory over the D-backs, Buck belted a pair of home runs, continuing his push toward an Opening Day roster spot.
"That was the first time I've ever had two home runs in a game. Ever," said Buck, who is in camp on a Minor League contract. "Obviously, it couldn't happen at a better time where I'm fighting for a spot. I've been swinging the bat really well and it's good to see consistent results.
"It's fun to go up there and hit right now, because my confidence is at an all-time high. I couldn't care less who's on the mound. I know what I've been working on and I'm seeing the results. My confidence is there."
The Indians lost Josh Rodriguez to the Pirates during December's Rule 5 Draft, but the infielder is not a lock to break camp with Pittsburgh. If Rodriguez is not in the Pirates' plans for Opening Day, they would have to offer him back to the Tribe for $25,000, which is half the cost of selecting him in the Rule 5. Cleveland would likely be willing to take him back, but Pittsburgh might prefer to work out a trade in order to keep Rodriguez in their system. ... Indians infielder Adam Everett (sprained left thumb) was fine after taking part in Tuesday's workout and was available off the bench for Wednesday's game. ... Outfielder Trevor Crowe (right rotator cuff soreness) has been able to do some hitting off a tee, but he is still unable to play catch. Crowe will likely open this season on the disabled list. A decision about whether Crowe might require shoulder surgery could be coming in the near future. ... Right-hander Justin Masterson, closer Chris Perez and reliever Tony Sipp are scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Thursday.