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Notes: Zimmer's health; Bieber's outing

@MandyBell02
February 25, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- By now, we all know just how crowded the Indians’ outfield is. With 10 candidates on the 40-man roster, plus three non-roster invitees, the Tribe has a lot of outfield talent to evaluate over the next four weeks of Spring Training. For Bradley Zimmer, it’s more than

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- By now, we all know just how crowded the Indians’ outfield is. With 10 candidates on the 40-man roster, plus three non-roster invitees, the Tribe has a lot of outfield talent to evaluate over the next four weeks of Spring Training.

For Bradley Zimmer, it’s more than just a competition. The 27-year-old is appreciating every moment he’s given on the field now that he’s healthy.

Zimmer was held out Tuesday afternoon as the Indians scored a 10-2 victory over the White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. He saw his first game action of the spring on Monday against the Rockies. It’s been a long wait for the outfielder, who has spent a lot of time at the team’s training facility in Arizona since his shoulder surgery in July 2018.

“It's not fun,” Zimmer said. “Like I said, I wish injuries upon nobody just because it's not a good time. Being in here in this locker room with nobody else is tough. I think I really believe it makes you tougher. You go through those times and appreciate your health a touch more and work even harder. I think I took a lot of positives away from it.”

After going through his shoulder rehab, Zimmer suffered a setback with an oblique strain that kept him sidelined until mid-August last season. When he returned, he made some changes to his batting stance, but spent the offseason rediscovering his comfort spot at the plate. Even though the Indians wanted him to play winter ball over the offseason and he chose not to, Zimmer put in a lot of work at the team’s swing camps in Cleveland and on his own after a quick three-week break at the end of the season to be prepared for 2020.

“I think we talked about it and found a middle ground,” Zimmer said. “It was just being injured and playing still injured at the end of the year, I needed time to get my body and mind right. It was not where I wanted to be at. It was a huge benefit and moving forward, I have no regrets with that and I think they're on the same page for me. I'm looking forward to this year.”

Inbox: What's Plan B with Clevinger injured?

In his first game of the spring, Zimmer went 2-for-3 with a double, homer and two RBIs.

“You saw his speed in his first at-bat when he turned that hit into a double and then he hit the home run,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Again, I don’t care what time of year it is, we love watching guys do well. Last year, when he came back, he had tinkered with his stance a little bit. He looks more back to the basics, which I think is good. He’s a long-levered guy, anyway, so you’re always going to have to fight to be short, but he looks like he’s in a much more athletic position.”

Zimmer may need some more reps before he can work his way back onto the Indians’ 26-man roster, which could lead to him beginning the year in Triple-A. But the competitive outfield situation is not something that’s going to change his mindset.

“I'm still going to go about my work and do what's worked for me,” Zimmer said. “I don't think you need to change anything. I know who I am as a player, and I think I just need to go be myself and the rest will take care of itself.”

Bieber makes spring debut
There was some consideration given to easing Shane Bieber into his Spring Training routine this year, but the Indians decided to throw him into the starting mix right away. The right-hander made his first start of the year in the team’s home opener on Tuesday, throwing one hitless frame.

“If I’m getting on the mound, I have a tough time like throwing 75-80 percent,” Bieber said. “So, I feel like that’s the best way to do it is to try to get game reps, put effort into each pitch. … [Pitching coach] Carl [Willis] halfway through was like, ‘All right, maybe we’ll just let you go.’ So I’m all on board for that.”

Bieber said he worked on his cutter and changeup over the offseason and was ready to see how the pitches would play in a game setting, even if he was slated to work only one inning in his first outing.

“[I tried] to play around with the cutter,” Bieber said. “If anything, it helps my slider a little bit and creates a little bit more feel for something going that direction. And then, obviously, just trying to improve the changeup -- and threw a lot of those today and got some positive feedback from it.”

Carrasco progressing
Francona said Carlos Carrasco, who sustained a mild right hip flexor strain last Wednesday, was scheduled to throw a bullpen on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Up next
Right-hander Adam Plutko will make his first start of the spring on Wednesday against the Padres at 3:10 p.m. ET at Peoria. He will be able to test his redeveloped curveball for the first time in game action. Fans can hear the action through an exclusive webcast on indians.com.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.