GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jeanmar Gomez took the mound on Friday at Goodyear Ballpark as the favorite to win the Indians' fifth-starter job. He walked off the hill in the fourth inning against the Reds with his status suddenly up in the air.
Gomez injured his hip while stretching at first base to catch a throw from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on a double play in the fourth inning. The Cleveland right-hander worked through some warmup throws, and then threw two pitches to the next batter, Chris Heisey, before being pulled from the game.
Indians manager Manny Acta said the injury does not seem too worrisome right now.
"Gomez was doing very well up until that mild right hip strain," Acta said. "He's day to day right now. We're not anticipating anything serious, but we didn't want to take any chances. It looked like he had a tough time pushing off a little bit and looked uncomfortable to us."
With less than a week left until Opening Day, Gomez was in a competition with right-hander Kevin Slowey for the lone vacancy in the Tribe's rotation. While Gomez got the start in Cleveland's Cactus League contest against the Reds, Slowey was working through an outing in Minor League camp.
Pitching for Triple-A Columbus, Slowey surrendered seven runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk in five innings. He logged 85 pitches in the outing.
Acta made it clear that Gomez's injury does not necessarily take him out of the running for the fifth-starter spot. Thanks to an off-day on April 6, Cleveland does not need to use a fifth starter until April 11. That might provide enough time for Gomez to recover from the minor hip injury.
"If he wins the fifth spot, the fifth starter doesn't pitch until like Halloween," Acta joked. "He's got plenty of time."
Prior to the game, Acta indicated that the ballclub would likely reveal its choice for the fifth-starter job on Saturday. Left-hander David Huff -- also a candidate earlier this spring -- was taken out of the mix on Thursday, when he injured his right hamstring during his start against the D-backs.
Acta noted following Gomez's setback that the Indians could delay their rotation announcement until Sunday, giving the pitcher an extra day to rest.
"It all depends on how bad he's hurt," Acta said.
This spring, the 24-year-old Gomez has fashioned a 1.37 ERA in six appearances, including Friday's abbreviated start. Prior to leaving with the injury, Gomez had logged 3 2/3 scoreless innings and ended with four strikeouts, two walks and two hits allowed. The righty gave up three runs in 19 2/3 innings on the spring.
Gomez has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Indians, going 9-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 22 big league appearances. Last year, he worked in 11 games for Cleveland, posting a 5-3 record to go along with a 4.47 ERA. Gomez spent the bulk of 2011 with Triple-A Columbus, where he went 10-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 21 outings.
Beyond the injuries to Gomez and Huff, the Indians also saw veteran starter Derek Lowe leave his start on Thursday due to back spasms. Lowe is not expected to need a trip to the disabled list, but the late wave of health woes has thrown a wrinkle into Cleveland's rotation plans.
"We need to finish this thing quick," Acta said. "We need to end Spring Training so I can have a rotation. We're going to be OK. Our main four guys are ready to go, and we're fortunate enough to have enough depth for that last spot."