03/20/2013 8:45 PM ET
Phelps pushing for spot on Opening Day bench
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cord Phelps has opened plenty of eyes with his strong showing this spring for the Indians, but it is not clear whether the versatile infielder has played his way into being seriously considered for the Opening Day bench.
What is apparent is Phelps is firmly on Cleveland's radar.
"Regardless of whether he makes our team or not," manager Terry Francona said, "he's played to the point where he's going to help us win games, which we're thrilled about. I know we have decisions to make coming up in a couple weeks, but we're so happy with the way he's played.
"He can play second. He can play third. He can hit. He's going to go play first. His versatility, and the way he hits, is exciting for us as an organization. Does that start on April 1? We don't know yet. We'll see."
Through 18 Cactus League games this spring, the 26-year-old Phelps -- a switch hitter -- has hit at a .324 (12-for-37) clip with two home runs, three doubles, five RBIs and seven walks against six strikeouts. Last year with Triple-A Columbus, Phelps hit .276 with 16 homers, 34 doubles and 62 RBIs in 135 games. He posted a .368 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage for the Clippers last year.
In parts of two seasons with Cleveland, Phelps has hit just .173 (18-for-104) in 49 big league games.
As things currently stand, the Tribe's Opening Day bench projects to include backup catcher Lou Marson and infielder Mike Aviles. There will be one or two more jobs available, depending on whether Cleveland begins the regular season with 12 or 13 pitchers. The Indians are weighing whether to carry an extra arm given that the team has 13 straight games with no off-days to open the season.
"We're discussing everything," Francona said.
Veteran Jason Giambi and utility man Ryan Raburn -- both in camp on Minor League contracts -- are leading candidates for cracking the Opening Day bench. Other players in the mix include catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.
"It'll probably come down pretty much to the end," Francona said of the bullpen and bench decisions. "Because, even when you make your mind up, if something happens -- somebody sprains an ankle or something -- [things change]. We'll try to communicate as much as we can."
Capps uncertain of where he'll start 2013 season
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Matt Capps is not sure what his next step is right now. He knows he is still in Indians camp and he will not be on Cleveland's Opening Day roster. Beyond that, the veteran right-hander is not sure what lies ahead.
"I'm as lost as you guys," Capps said on Wednesday morning. "I've never been in this situation. I'm not really sure what to think or where to go or what to do. So, I'm just kind of here right now."
Capps is still technically a member of Cleveland's big league camp as a non-roster invitee, and the ballclub has let him know it has interest in keeping him in the Minor Leagues. The former closer was informed he was not in the Tribe's Opening Day plans on Monday.
Before accepting or declining the opportunity to stay in Cleveland's system with Triple-A Columbus, Capps will search for another opportunity to pitch in the Majors. His agent has been working the phones for the past couple of days.
"I think that's what you have to do," Capps said. "If a team calls and says they want me in the big leagues, obviously I'm going to go. If that doesn't happen, I'll do what I have to do, whether that's in Triple-A or wherever to get back."
Capps, 29, was limited to 29 1/3 innings last season with the Twins due to a right shoulder issue. He still managed a 3.68 ERA and 14 saves in 30 appearances for Minnesota. Capps' best season was in 2010, when he fashioned a 2.47 ERA and finished with 42 saves in 74 games between tours with Washington and Minnesota.
In four Cactus League appearances this spring, the right-hander has allowed two runs on four hits with three walks and one strikeout for Cleveland.
Capps said he has felt fine health-wise and his velocity has improved throughout the spring -- similar to previous seasons. He indicated that he was clocked around 90-91 mph in an outing on Sunday after sitting around 86-87 mph earlier this spring.
"I feel good. I feel really good," said Capps, who has 138 saves in parts of eight seasons in the Majors between stints with the Pirates, Nationals and Twins. "I feel like I'm close. Obviously, it's disappointing, but I feel like I can help this ballclub. I feel like I could help any ballclub right now.
"It's not the news and not the situation you want to be in, but we'll deal with it."
If Capps decides to stay with Cleveland by accepting a Minor League assignment, he would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus. He would also be eligible for an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent on June 1 if he is not in the big leagues by that date.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Capps said when asked if he would be willing to go to the Minors. "In an ideal world, I change their mind and I'm in Cleveland in two weeks. We'll see."
Indians awaiting Santana's return from Classic
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Carlos Santana is scheduled to rejoin the Indians within the next couple of days, but manager Terry Francona did not have an exact return date as of Wednesday morning. Asked if the catcher was still celebrating the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic championship, Francona smiled.
"He might be," Francona said.
Santana and the Dominican Republic captured the Classic crown with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico, which featured Tribe infielder Mike Aviles, on Tuesday night in San Francisco. For the tournament, the D.R. ran the table, winning all eight games it played through stops in Puerto Rico, Miami and San Francisco.
In his eight games, Santana hit .273 (6-for-22) with two home runs, three RBIs, five runs scored and nine walks for his homeland. Aviles, who was acquired from Toronto in an offseason trade, hit .323 (10-for-31) with a homer, double, four runs and nine RBIs for Puerto Rico.
Francona was happy that his players had the chance to take part, but he is looking forward to getting them back in camp with the regular season rapidly approaching.
"I'm glad for them," Francona said, "but it seems like every time we're trying to do something, especially around our infield, whether it's bunt plays, first-to-third plays, our catcher isn't here. That's frustrating. So we'll be glad to have them back."
Francona noted that Aviles was scheduled to arrive in Arizona on Wednesday night and would be given the day off on Thursday. The infielder will rejoin the team on Friday. The manager was not as clear on Santana's itinerary, but expected to have the catcher back in the fold soon.
Santana will have some catching up to do when he does return to Cleveland's workouts and games.
"He's probaby caught more than he would've caught here, and high intensity innings," Francona said. "That part's not a problem. We just want to make sure everybody is on the same page when we start the games here, on where we're throwing the ball and why, and how we're giving signs, and things like that."
Quote to note
"When you're up there thinking about doing something, it just makes it too difficult to succeed. You end up not seeing the ball and you end up not having good mechanics, because you're thinking about something else. It's like you're chasing your tail."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on hitters tinkering with their swing.
• Indians rotation candidate Corey Kluber logged 4 2/3 innings in a camp game against Double-A Akron during Tuesday's off-day. The right-hander allowed two runs on nine hits, finishing with one walk and five strikeouts in the 86-pitch effort.
"He got hit a little bit," Francona said. "They put the barrel on it a few times. He was trying to establish his fastball early, which we wanted him to, and he got hit a little bit. Then he started throwing his breaking ball and he started getting them out. We want him to be more aggressive with that fastball."
• Indians right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is not in the team's Opening Day plans, has agreed to accept a Minor League assignment, but the ballclub is still sorting through the details of his contract with agent Scott Boras. General manager Chris Antonetti said the situation should have some kind of resolution within the next few days.
• Francona indicated that Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who tweaked his right hamstring during Friday's contest against the Brewers, might be ready to return to game action by this weekend. Gomes is competing for a bench job as a third catcher and utility player.
• Indians right-hander Brett Myers, who is lined up to be the team's third starter this season, turned in six shutout innings in a Triple-A game on Wednesday. Myers scattered three hits, struck out eight and finished with zero walks in the 75-pitch effort.