GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber has created an impeccable routine and knows the steps he needs to take each spring to get ready for Opening Day. The Indians' ace has a pair of American League Cy Young Awards in his trophy case as evidence.On Tuesday, Kluber turned in two innings
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber has created an impeccable routine and knows the steps he needs to take each spring to get ready for Opening Day. The Indians' ace has a pair of American League Cy Young Awards in his trophy case as evidence.
On Tuesday, Kluber turned in two innings againast the A's at Goodyear Ballpark in his Cactus League debut, beginning a campaign that he hopes ends with a World Series triumph. The right-hander struck out three, allowed one run on one hit and issued a walk. In the spring, the pitching line is less important than how Kluber felt facing hitters for the first time this year.
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"I haven't done it in however many months," Kluber said. "It's definitely different than throwing a bullpen or a live BP or things like that. I try to use the first time or two to get used to actually having another team and a defense behind me, things like that, working on maintaining my delivery throughout it and trying to get built up."
That is essentially all manager Terry Francona is looking for at this point, too.
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"I couldn't care less what his ERA is," Francona said. "A lot of times you'll see the veteran pitchers, they're the ones that give up runs. They know they've got a spot on the team. He may want to work on fastball command one day, so he's not going to throw a breaking ball. Things like that. The biggest thing is, when we get to Opening Day, he feels really good about himself."
Painting the corners
Francona was in the Indians' locker room on Monday morning, sitting at the locker next to Josh Tomlin's stall. When the pitcher took off his socks before getting into his workout gear, the manager looked down and noticed that Tomlin's toenails were painted pink.
"I'm like, what the...," Francona said.
Tomlin allowed his 2-year-old daughter, Myla, to put pink toenail polish on him, but he did not expect that he would need to head to the Indians' complex that way. After his toes were made up, Tomlin discovered that there was no nail polish remover in his family's Arizona house. The pitcher did not have time to swing by a store, so he went to the team's facility hoping no one would notice.
"[Francona] saw it real quick," Tomlin said with a laugh.
The pitcher took some ribbing from Francona, but then went out and logged two shutout innings against the Brewers on Monday with pink toenails hidden beneath his spikes. Given his strong Cactus League debut, Tomlin was asked if he might have Myla paint his toenails before starts from now on.
"Yeah, they'll be whatever color," Tomlin quipped. "I'll have makeup on. I'll have fingernails painted. Everything."
Jason Kipnis is not battling for a spot on the roster, but the second baseman is trying to win some fans back after a 2017 season that was riddled with injuries and inconsistency. In Tuesday's tilt against the A's, Kipnis launched a pair of home runs in a 3-for-3 performance, giving him three shots through two Cactus League games this spring. While there were rumblings over the winter that Kipnis might be in the mix for an outfield job, he is focusing solely on second so far this spring.
Corner infielder Richie Shaffer broke a 6-6 tie in the seventh inning with a grand slam, marking his second homer of the spring. Shaffer has a few players ahead of him on the depth chart, but he is trying to compete for a bench spot this spring.
"I'm trying to make a case that there's always room on a roster," Shaffer said. "That's my goal, is to go out there and just force someone's hand to make a move, and be like, 'We can't not have this guy out there.' That's what I go out there every day trying to prove."
Outfielder Brandon Guyer (left wrist surgery in October) has resumed a return-to-play rehab program, according to Francona. Guyer sustained a setback with his wrist last week and was shut down from baseball activities for a few days. As things currently stand, it appears doubtful that Guyer will be ready in time for Opening Day.
"They'll let us know when he's ready," Francona said. "You guys know him, he's not going to short change you on effort. He's going to do everything he can to get ready."
• One thing the Indians plan on trying this spring is having the first baseman play behind runners in outings with Tomlin on the mound. Francona feels that the combination of Tomlin's ability to control the running game and his catcher's skill at throwing out runners creates a situation where runners do not need to be held so closely.
"We're going to experiment a little bit this spring," Francona said. "I think it's such an advantage. He's so quick to the plate, yet he's a contact pitcher. So, if we're able to take the hole away, it should help."
• Left-hander Andrew Miller, closer Cody Allen and recently signed reliever Matt Belisle each faced live hitters during Tuesday morning's workout. Belisle is tentatively scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Thursday against the Dodgers. The debuts for Miller and Allen remain to be determined.
The Indians have two split-squad Cactus League games on Wednesday afternoon. Right-hander Mike Clevinger will start against the Mariners in a 3:05 p.m. ET game (heard exlusively on Audio Webcast) at Goodyear Ballpark, while lefty Ryan Merritt will take the ball in a 3:10 p.m. ET affair against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium, which can be seen on MLB.TV. All-Star Jose Ramirez will highlight the home lineup, while Francisco Lindor hits the road.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.