Outlook: Cabrera's power provides valuable offense

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Asdrubal Cabrera is confident that he will be over his current back injury and in the Indians' lineup on Opening Day. The All-Star shortstop is so optimistic that he summoned his inner Nick Swisher when asked Thursday if he would be ready for the start of the season.

"For sure, bro," Cabrera said with a grin.

Told that Cabrera dropped a "bro" on inquisitive reporters, Swisher laughed.

"I love it, bro," Swisher beamed. "It's catching on!"

Kidding aside, the Indians believe Cabrera is indeed on target to be in the lineup for Tuesday's season-opening game on the road against the Blue Jays. The switch-hitting shortstop has missed the past six games due to the back injury, which was suffered while swinging a bat from the right side in the batting cage on Saturday.

Indians manager Terry Francona indicated that Cabrera, who resumed hitting drills on Wednesday, was scheduled to take part in Thursday's team workout. Depending on how the shortstop feels on Friday morning, he might be cleared to get a handful of plate appearances in a Minor League game as a designated hitter.

If Cabrera is going to play in a Cactus League game again before camp breaks, it would likely be in Cleveland's spring finale against the Reds on Saturday.

"He's doing well," Francona said. "He's definitely on pace for Opening Day. We're just trying to figure out the best way for him to feel more comfortable at the plate."

Through 13 Cactus League games this spring, Cabrera has hit .281 (9-for-32) with one home run and seven RBIs, and he also had a brief stint with Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Last season, he hit .270 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs in 143 games for the Indians.

Cabrera said he is looking forward to rejoining a retooled starting lineup that includes newcomers Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs and Swisher.

"I'm just waiting for that day," Cabrera said. "I think we've got a really good team right now and a really good offense. There's a little more experience. I think we're going to do good this year."

Despite being sent down, Carrasco proud of effort

2013 Outlook: Carrasco should shore up Tribe rotation

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Carlos Carrasco was hoping to break camp as a member of the Indians' Opening Day rotation. The right-hander did not achieve that goal, but he is still pleased with how close he came, considering the comeback trail he has been navigating.

Carrasco missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and was one of two finalists for the fifth spot in Cleveland's rotation this spring. That job went to non-roster invitee Scott Kazmir, who will take the ball for the Tribe against the Rays on April 6.

Carrasco will open the season with Triple-A Columbus.

"They told me that they're going to send me down," said Carrasco, who received the news on Monday. "I said, 'OK, that's fine.' I've got to go down there, finish my rehab, get some innings and everything, and be ready when they call me. I'm going to be ready.

"I feel happy with everything this spring. At the beginning, I didn't feel that good. But over the last three or four weeks, I've started to feel good again with everything. For the most part, I'm healthy and I'm just ready to go."

In a Minor League outing against the White Sox's Triple-A affiliate on Wednesday, the 26-year-old Carrasco spun five shutout innings and ended his afternoon with eight strikeouts, one walk and one hit allowed. Indians manager Terry Francona raved about the performance, noting that Carrasco was sitting around 95 mph with his fastball.

"They said he was just blowing guys away," Francona said. "Most of the time when a guy goes to a back field, you'll see a velocity dip a little bit. Nobody's in the stands. His [velocity] spiked up. It's interesting. We're trying to get a handle on why that is. ... Maybe it's like he gets in a comfort zone, he's loose and he lets it fly. The good news is it's there. Now, you want to see it more consistently."

As things currently stand, Carrasco is set to join starters Daisuke Matsuzaka, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in the rotation at Triple-A Columbus. Lefty T.J. House appears to be the leading candidate for the other opening in the starting staff. Right-handed pitching prospect Danny Salazar was optioned to Triple-A earlier this spring, but he might still open the year with Double-A Akron.

"It's the easiest way to derail your season, by not having enough pitching," said Francona, when asked about the rotation depth. "It's the hardest thing to do, but I thought [GM Chris Antonetti] did a great job. We have some guys sitting in Triple-A that are still developing that we could call up. We have a veteran we could call up. I think there's some balance there that, if something happens, we could go to some guys."

Quote to note

"You might be asking the wrong person. I mean, I was part of the worst collapse. I guess the point is that, if you're short in an area, over the course of a long season, it'll get exposed. That's the best way to put it. You might go through periods where it doesn't show itself, but over the course of a season, if you're short, it gets exposed."
-- Francona, on the Tribe's second-half struggles in recent years

Smoke signals

• The Indians have their closer in two-time All-Star Chris Perez, and a pair of proven setup men in Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. Behind that trio, the rest of the bullpen roles are mostly undefined as Cleveland heads into the regular season. Manager Terry Francona said the relievers' roles will evolve as the season progresses.

"It'll be interesting," Francona said on Thursday. "When we get to Toronto [for the opening series], we'll talk to the guys about being patient, because when the phone rings, you don't want guys like, 'Who's pitching?' But it takes a couple weeks for things to settle in."

• Francona said that catcher Carlos Santana's transition back to Tribe camp since playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic has been smooth. The only thing left for the catcher to accomplish is to continue to learn the club's various signs and catch a couple of relievers he has not worked with yet.

"He was ahead of the game behind the plate because he caught so much," Francona said of Santana's stint with the Dominican Republic. "He caught more there than he would've with us. There's only two relievers he hasn't caught, and we'll make sure he catches them in the next couple of days."

• Designated hitter Mark Reynolds, who is also Cleveland's backup first baseman, was in the lineup Thursday as the team's third baseman. Reynolds (a third baseman earlier in his career) requested a game at his former position. Utility man Mike Aviles is the Tribe's primary backup at third, but Reynolds could play there in a pinch.

"He wanted to play one game just in case something ever happened," Francona explained. "I thought today was a good enough day. We'll let Lonnie [Chisenhall] get his at-bats at DH. It's just to kind of cover everything before we leave here."

• Left-hander David Huff, who is out of Minor League options and will not be on the Opening Day roster, remains in camp with Cleveland. The Indians are currently looking into trading Huff, as well as outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who was designated for assignment on Monday.