December 21, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
32°F
 

Indians: Veteran Orlando Cabrera welcomes position change

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – When you’ve played the game as long as Orlando Cabrera has, sometimes you need a little extra push to get going for another 162-game season.

“I always look for something to motivate me, a challenge,” said Cabrera, who will enter his 15th season in the majors as the Indians’ new second baseman after a lengthy tenure as a top-flight shortstop. “This year, playing second base is a great challenge. There’s a lot of things to accomplish at a different position. You get something every year that motivates you.

“I feel comfortable, confident, and I’m really excited for this year.”

After spending pretty much his entire career as a shortstop – a darn good one at that, with two Gold Gloves (2001 with the Expos and 2007 with the Angels) to prove it – Cabrera signed a one-year,

$1 million contract with the Indians. He knew the position was occupied by Asdrubal Cabrera.

The transition to second base began smoothly this spring, but Orlando Cabrera’s sore shoulder has slowed the process a bit. Still, the 36-year-old native of Cartagena, Columbia, isn’t anticipating any problems.

“It’s coming along a little bit too slow, but I think I’ll be 100 percent when we break camp,” said Cabrera, who entered Friday batting .348 (8-for-23) with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs in nine exhibition games. “(Turning double plays from second) is nothing out of the ordinary. I feel like I have been playing second base my whole career. My arm will get better, the turns will get better.”

Cabrera, a career .274 hitter with seven big league clubs, is expected to provide veteran leadership on a young roster. He’s also being counted on to bring above-average defense at a position Cabrera has played just 33 times on the big league level, not once since the 2000 season.

No problem, says Cleveland manager Manny Acta, who was Montreal’s third base/infield coach during Cabrera’s last three seasons with the Expos from 2002-04.

“Orlando’s not going to have any issue,” Acta said. “He’s so fundamentally sound that I don’t think he’s going to be affected by the move. This guy is one of the most fundamentally sound infielders that I’ve ever been around. He’s also one of the best baserunners that I have seen in the last 10 years.”

Cabrera is ready to provide it all for the Indians, especially after seeing how the younger players in the clubhouse have taken to him.

“The thing that has impressed me the most is how much respect all these guys have for me,” he said. “That’s something you don’t find in a lot of places.”

It’s all part of a unique season for Cabrera. A new team, a new city, a new position.

Debut day

Grady Sizemore cleared the final hurdle in his quest to return to the field, running the bases for the third time and sliding for the first time Friday in Goodyear.

He is scheduled to make his exhibition debut Sunday against the Diamondbacks at Goodyear Ballpark, serving as the designated hitter for two at-bats.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Acta officially declared that Sizemore would not be ready to open the regular season April 1 against the White Sox at Progressive Field.

“It would be too much to ask,” Acta said. “The program we have set up for him, he’s not going to be able to play every day. He’s going to be playing every other day and that’s not going to be enough to get him ready.”

Michael Brantley will most likely fill Sizemore’s vacancy in center field, while Austin Kearns plays left. Sizemore’s absence opens up a spot for Travis Buck as an extra outfielder.

Donald’s down

Third baseman Jason Donald is still plagued by a bone bruise in his left hand that has prohibited him from swinging the bat.

Donald hasn’t played since last Friday and has missed a total of 11 games with the injury.

Acta said if Donald is able to play during the final week of spring training that he would be on the opening day roster.

Head trainer Lonnie Soloff is expected to provide an update on Donald’s condition today.

Final countdown

Acta said he has limited the field to two pitchers for the final spot in the Indians’ rotation, but didn’t indicate which one had left the race among right-handers Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander David Huff.

Tomlin (0-0, 1.13 ERA in three games) has clearly pitched better than Gomez (0-1, 6.43 in five games) and Huff (1-1, 8.25 in five games).

“We’re not rushed right now,” Acta said of the final decision. “We need to stretch these guys out, and we’re going to continue to look at them.”

Roundin’ third

Indians minor leaguers opened their spring training schedule Friday.

* Today, 4:05 p.m., vs. Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium, WTAM 1100-AM. Justin Masterson (0-1, 6.00) vs. Scott Kazmir (0-1, 3.38).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.