Indians trying to get everybody back for AL title defense
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) For a defending AL champion, the Cleveland Indians are dealing with a lot of uncertainty less than two weeks before their April 3 opener at Texas.
All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis is sidelined at least through April with an ailing right shoulder Outfielder Michael Brantley, recovering from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss most of 2016, didn't play in an exhibition game until Monday.
First baseman Carlos Santana is just back from the World Baseball Classic, and shortstop Francisco Lindor won't return until after Wednesday night's WBC title game..
''There's a lot of things in the air,'' Indians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday. ''We don't have Kip for the foreseeable future. Brantley's working his way back. We don't know if (Jose) Ramirez will be our third baseman or second baseman or go back and forth.
''What we can fall back is that we have some really good hitters. When we know what our roster is, we'll put together what we think is the way we should put our guys in the batting order. The names that you know are going to be hitting where they usually do.''
Santana led off on Wednesday and was 1 for 3 against Colorado. Brantley followed and also was 1 for 3. He is to play in consecutive games for the first time on Thursday.
''Santana makes it easier because he can hit first, he can hit fifth, and he's willing to do, that so it makes a lot of things easier for me,'' Francona said.
Ramirez - batting in the No. 3 position usually occupied by Lindor - shifted to second base, with new cleanup man Edwin Encarnacion behind him.
Giovanny Urshela, likely Cleveland's third baseman if Ramirez moves back to his original position, was in the lineup at shortstop to get some at-bats.
''If he doesn't get to a ball or makes an error, it's not going to hurt us in July,'' Francona said.
Urshela was tested right away. He made a diving stop on DJ Lemahieu's hard-hit ball up the middle in the first inning, then threw him out.
Another player to follow is right-hander Danny Salazar. He was 10-3 with a 2.22 ERA in his first 15 starts and was picked for the All-Star team, but he missed that game and much of the second half with a sore arm.
Salazar entered Wednesday with a 2.93 ERA in 15 innings, but gave up seven runs and eight hits in five innings against the Rockies, who won 10-2.
Colorado scored five times in the second inning after Salazar struck out the first two batters. He gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon.
''I was supposed to go six innings,'' Salazar said.
He threw 96 pitches.
''I thought he did well to hang in there,'' Francona said. ''His arm looked strong and he got stretched out.''
Salazar said he has no concerns with his arm, largely because he was able to come back and pitch in the World Series.
''Things like this are going to happen during spring training. But my arm is good. I'm ready, I feel ready right now. That's all that matters,'' Salazar said.