Men in the Middle

The on-field relationship between a team’s second baseman and shortstop is a very important component for any ballclub. That being the case, having second baseman Jason Kipnis and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera working together from the get-go this spring is great for the Indians.

The Indians believe Kipnis will be their second baseman for years to come and Cabrera is in the plans for short for at least these next two years (maybe longer if they ever get a multi-year deal worked out). Last year, they had to learn to work together on the fly after Kipnis was called up in July and, even then, their time together was sporadic due to some injury bugs.

Knowing they’ll be the combo all spring and all season — barring injury, of course — mans they can dedicate this spring to knowing the ins and outs of being double-play partners.

“That’s very important,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “That’s one of the reaons why they’re paired up in some of those working groups. It will be important throughout spring that they spend time together on the field. That’s always important.

“It’s tough to ask a guy to come right in the middle of the season and get familiar with his partner when these guys have never played on the same club.”

Cabrera said the best advice he can give Kipnis is just to relax and try to find a comfort zone at second base and in working with the acrobatic shortstop. Cabrera noted that the young second baseman is a fast learner, too.

“He’s a good guy to play with,” Cabrera said. “I think if we pull everything together, we’re going to be a good middle infield this year. .. He listens. He’s a good guy. He tries to get better every day.”

No word yet on whether Cabrera will be teaching Kipnis any bare hand or behind-the-back techniques.

Some notes from Monday…

  • Acta had joked all spring to this point that he would give us one or two lineup spots each week leading up to Opening Day. Well, Manny finally caved under our persistent pestering and revealed the bulk of his tentative batting order: 1. Brantley, 2. Cabrera, 3. Choo, 4. Santana, 5. Hafner, 6. Kotchman, 7. Kipnis.
  • Obviously, there are two spots missing. That is because one outfield job is up in the air right now and Cleveland has not decided whether Lonnie Chisenhall or Jack Hannahan will be the starting third baseman. Given that, it is certainly possible that Kipnis could be pushed down to eighth.
  • During a chat with Asdrubal this morning, he indicated that his agent and the Indians simply are “not on the same page” right now when it comes to long-term contract talks. That’s why they settled on the one-year deal before coming to Spring Training. Cabrera insists he’s interested in a multi-year deal with Cleveland.
  • In discussing Cabrera’s offensive potential and expectations this season, Acta noted that one area the team wants to see improve is his on-base percentage. That said, Acta believes — in light of the injuries and his emergence as a run producer last year — some of the drop-off in OBP in 2011 can be attributed to the shortstop putting more on his shoulders.
  • Setup man Vinnie Pestano said this morning that his goal is to someday be a closer in the Major Leagues. He isn’t interested in achieving that goal right now, though. Pestano said the best situation for the team is to have closer Chris Perez (strained left oblique) healthy and working the ninth. Pestano is confident that CP will be ready for Opening Day.
  • Perez said he injured his side as a result of going too hard in his first bullpen session of the spring. Pestano said that’s a common misstep for many relievers early on each year. Catcher Lou Marson said he will sometimes force pitchers to slow down their pace by standing up or taking a few seconds before throwing the ball back.
  • Right-hander Austin Adams is not among the pitchers throwing live batting practice sessions this week. Adams has a sore right shoulder and has been shut down for the time being. He’ll be re-evaluated in the next few days before beginning his throwing program again.
  • Righty Carlos Carrasco, who has Tommy John elbow surgery at the end of last season, has built up to a distance of 60 feet in his comeback program. Carrasco is expected to miss most, if not all, of this season. That’s a big arm to throw back into the mix for the 2013 season.
  • Talked to INF/OF Russ Canzler today and he’s excited about the chance he has this spring to show the Indians he’s ready for the Majors. Canzler bats righty and can play first and third base, left and right field and DH. That’s not a bad option for the bench, but he has lots of competition.
  • Canzler was not blindsided by the news that he had been traded. After the Rays knocked him off the 40-man roster (after signing Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger), they told Canzler they were going to try to trade him. He’s come to Cleveland’s camp with three gloves and an intriguing bat.
  • Have noticed for a while now that the bats in Shin-Soo Choo’s equipment bag are always neatly wrapped in white cloth sleeves. He said he simply likes to keep his bats as clean as possible before using them on the field.
  • Had a nice discussion with catcher Luke Carlin this morning about his being in the soon-to-be-released book by pitcher/author Dirk Hayhurst. “Out of My League” — which tells the story of Hayhurst’s 2008 season in the Padres system — hits stores Tuesday. Carlin was along for much of the ride and a big part of Hayhurst’s second book. I’ll be writing more on that topic in the coming days.

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Photo of the Day

Legends of the Indians Beat: 63 years of combined Tribe coverage

Sheldon Ocker (Akron Beacon Journal) & Paul Hoynes (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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Make sure you’re reading Indians.com and following me on Twitter (@MLBastian). To see more of my Spring Training photos, CLICK HERE.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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