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Notes: Civale's big step; Santana vying for job

@JesseSanchezMLB
March 4, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians right-hander Aaron Civale took his first big step toward Opening Day when he made his first Cactus League start on Wednesday afternoon in the Tribe's 6-2 win over the D-backs at Salt River Fields. Exactly where he will be when that day comes is to be

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians right-hander Aaron Civale took his first big step toward Opening Day when he made his first Cactus League start on Wednesday afternoon in the Tribe's 6-2 win over the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

Exactly where he will be when that day comes is to be determined.

“I’m just going at it full-force, ” said Civale, who has been slowed this spring because of groin discomfort. “An opportunity opened and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure I’m in the right spot.”

Civale walked one batter in two scoreless innings and he struck out three. Last season, Civale went 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 10 starts for the Indians. He struck out 46 and allowed 44 hits.

“What we saw from Aaron last year is that he is capable of giving us really effective Major League innings, and giving us a chance to win the games he starts,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said. “He’s continued to make progress and he continues to develop. We are excited to see him pitch and begin to build up his pitch counts, so he’s well positioned to start the season and make an impact with us.”

Civale’s health and performance during the final three weeks of spring will factor into the club’s decision to take him with the Major League team when camp breaks later this month. It’s just not the most important factor.

If Mike Clevinger, who had surgery to repair the partially torn meniscus in his left knee on Feb. 14, is ready for the start of the season and he doesn’t need to miss a start, the club will likely have to decide between Civale and Zach Plesac for the final spot in the rotation behind Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco and Adam Plutko, who is out of options. That means either Civale or Plesac could start the season at Triple-A.

It’s also worth noting that Plesac and Civale could begin the season in the starting rotation and compete against each other for the final spot when Clevinger returns. For now, Clevinger is simulating his windup on the mound and he is expected to pitch from the rubber soon. He’s still on track to return in early April.

“[Clevinger] does everything all out and he’s attacked the rehab the same way,” Antonetti said. “We saw first-hand last year how he was able to accelerate his return [from back injury] and maybe get back sooner than we expected. If that’s the case here, great. But we are not going to rush anything.”

Santana up for competition
Domingo Santana showed up to camp last month to win a job in the outfield and deliver a message along the way.

“It’s important everyone knows my elbow is strong and healthy,” Santana said in Spanish. “I think there was some doubt about that, but there should be no doubt. I’m good. I’m ready to go and ready for the challenges ahead.”

Santana is one of 10 outfielders competing for a starting job on the big league roster as Oscar Mercado appears to be the only lock. The Tribe is using the final weeks of Spring Training to determine who will join him and what roles those other outfielders will fill.

“[Santana] fit into our clubhouse really well and that’s the thing we are most focused on right now with guys only having a handful of at-bats,” Antonetti said. “I think what we have seen is that when he is healthy, he’s been a really productive offensive player. Everything we are seeing now is that he is healthy and has not had any issues with his body or elbow or anything like that.”

Last season, Santana hit 21 homers to go with 69 RBIs, while posting a .770 OPS in 121 games for the Mariners. He made 59 starts in left and 42 in right, but he didn’t start in the outfield after July 23 because of an elbow injury. He still led all players who played at least 850 innings in the outfield in 2019 with 12 errors.

So far, he has two hits in his first 17 Cactus League at-bats with appearances in left field, right field and as the designated hitter.

“I know I can hit and that will happen. But to be able to play a lot here, I am going to have to play good defense,” said Santana, who signed a one-year deal with a club option for 2021 last month. “My arm is rested and that’s all it needed. I’ve been taking lots of extra work in the outfield every day or every other day to be ready.”

Worth noting
• Adam Cimber, who has been slowed by tightness in his left side, was charged with two runs on two hits in one inning against the D-backs in his first Cactus League appearance since Feb. 23. He also struck out a batter.

• Indians manager Terry Francona was out sick on Wednesday. First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. managed the club in his absence.

Up next
Plesac will make his third Cactus League start at 3:05 p.m. CT on Thursday when the Indians take on the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Listen on Gameday Audio.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.