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Belisle off to good start in hunt for bullpen role

Veteran righty fires scoreless inning vs. Dodgers
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Belisle took his first step toward earning a spot on the team's Opening Day roster Thursday with a scoreless inning in the Indians' 8-7 win over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in his Cactus League debut.

Belisle, 37, who signed with the Indians as a non-roster invitee on Feb. 25, is competing for the last available bullpen job and the chance to join relievers Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister on one of the best relief staffs in the game.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Belisle took his first step toward earning a spot on the team's Opening Day roster Thursday with a scoreless inning in the Indians' 8-7 win over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in his Cactus League debut.

Belisle, 37, who signed with the Indians as a non-roster invitee on Feb. 25, is competing for the last available bullpen job and the chance to join relievers Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister on one of the best relief staffs in the game.

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Right-hander Carlos Torres and lefty Ryan Merritt are also among the competitors for the final spot.

"We're just trying to let [Belisle] get his legs under him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's been dying to get out there and pitch, but you want to be fair, especially with veteran guys. They need to get out there and get some reps. He is in competition, but today we wanted to get him going so we can get the best out of him."

Belisle gave up a single to Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp in the sixth on the first pitch he delivered, then recovered to retire the next hitter, Yasiel Puig. Catcher Keibert Ruiz followed with a line drive that hit Belisle and caromed away for a single, but the pitcher got Shawn Zarraga to hit into an inning-ending double play. Belisle jogged into the dugout unfazed.

Last season, Belisle posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 62 games with the Twins. He converted nine of 11 save opportunities as the club's primary closer in the second half of the season.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Injury updates

It remains uncertain if Danny Salazar, who has been slowed this spring by a shoulder issue, will be ready for Opening Day.

The right-hander threw on flat ground on consecutive days Monday and Tuesday as part of his throwing program and was given the day off Wednesday. He played catch Thursday and does not know when he will begin the long-toss portion of his program.

"We are taking it slow and easy," Salazar said. "It's better to miss some games now than miss games in the regular season."

In other injury news, Michael Brantley (right ankle) has been hitting, and he's increasing the intensity of his running program. Brandon Guyer (left wrist) was given a day off from swinging the bat.

Video: Napoli rejoins Tribe on Spring Training invite

Napoli on track

Veteran first baseman Mike Napoli likely will play in his first Cactus League game on Saturday against the Giants or Sunday against the Brewers.

"He has to run the bases twice," Francona said. "We have to be fair to him, too. [Friday] would have been a perfect day because Edwin [Encarnacion] and Yonder [Alonso] are both playing today. He's not ready to play, so we'll wait a couple more days."

The Indians signed Napoli, 36, to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation earlier this week. Last season, he played in 124 games with the Rangers, hitting .193 with 29 home runs and a .713 OPS.

Upton gets opportunity

The Indians have a history of giving non-roster invitees a fair shot to make the big league roster, and the club hopes the trend continues this year.

That's why players such as Rajai Davis, Melvin Upton Jr. and Brandon Barnes will get extended looks in Spring Training games. The general idea is the extra playing time will give the non-roster players the opportunity to establish their timing and rhythm at the plate in order to showcase their skills.

Video: Bastian discusses Upton Jr. signing with Indians

"We are upfront with those guys during the winter, and we fully expect a couple of non-roster guys to make our club," Francona said. "We've had guys like [Ryan] Raburn really help us, and we hope that will continue. The way we do business, we need to find those guys."

Upton started in left field against the Dodgers on Thursday and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He has three hits in 13 at-bats this spring.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen, but it's a good opportunity for [Upton]," Francona said. "He's going to get a chance to show what he can do."

Up next: The Indians take on the Rangers on Friday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. EST at Goodyear Ballpark, with Trevor Bauer getting the start. The Indians will have an exclusive audio webcast of the game.

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.

Cleveland Indians, Matt Belisle