GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Danny Salazar Project went from the back fields of the Indians' Spring Training complex all the way to the big time, Cactus League-style, on Monday. The results turned out to be exactly what the young right-hander and his bosses were looking for.
Salazar, the 24-year-old who hits the upper 90s with his fastball and had Tommy John surgery four years ago, is coming off the highest inning total of his pro career (145 split over the Minor and Major Leagues in 2013). He appeared in 10 games for the Tribe last year, pitching to a 3.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 15 walks in 52 innings. He also made enough of an impression with his pure stuff to get the start in the AL Wild Card game the team lost to the Tampa Bay Rays.
This spring, the club has gone with the same cautious approach, and that meant Salazar was slated for either two innings or 35 pitches in his Cactus League debut Monday against the Angels. Salazar went 1 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits while striking out two and walking two.
"I felt great -- my arm and my elbow," Salazar said. "I was a little wild, but I guess for being my first time out there, it felt really good."
Since the plan is for Salazar to be monitored for innings on a constant basis throughout the regular season, he said his goal for Spring Training is to be ready to throw five innings when the Indians break camp. Salazar is virtually assured of the fifth starters' spot, and the way the schedule plays out, he won't have to be used until April 8.
"I thought the ball came out of his hand really well. You've got to remember, this is his first time in an "A" game. I thought he was free and easy, and a lot to build off of," said manager Terry Francona.
Salazar said the knowledge that he's not fighting for a rotation spot has helped him relax through his slow-developing spring.
"I just need to keep working hard now, because I don't want them to move me from there," Salazar said.
Vet infielder Aviles adding 'outfielder' to long resume
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Veteran infielder Mike Aviles is in the process of adding "veteran outfielder" to his list of career accomplishments, and so far Indians manager Terry Francona has liked what he's seen. Aviles played right field on Monday against the Angels a day after playing left field against the Brewers, and it could be a continuing trend as the Indians look to make the most of their roster's versatility in 2014.
"You may even see him in center," Francona said. "If he plays center in a Spring Training game and a ball gets hit over his head, it's OK. I thought he looked like a left fielder yesterday, and that's a compliment. He hadn't even been taking balls out there. That's how much I trust him."
Aviles came over to Cleveland in a three-player trade in November 2012 that sent Esmil Rogers to Toronto and also netted the Indians catcher Yan Gomes. Aviles hit .252 with nine homers and 46 RBIs in 361 at-bats while playing third base, second, shortstop and five games in the outfield (four in left, one in right) in 2013.
"He embraces [the role], and he understands that he can get more at-bats and help us win by being able to move around, and when he moves around, play the game right," Francona said. "And I think he really takes a lot of pride in that."
Honesty the best policy for Francona
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Manager Terry Francona said one thing he's always done is make it very clear to players at the beginning of Spring Training what their chances might be to make the team. Francona said he had such discussions with veterans including Aaron Harang, Jeff Francoeur, Elliot Johnson and Nyjer Morgan, for example, and that he was "brutally honest" as always.
"The last thing I want to do is be a used-car salesman -- talk a guy into coming into camp, and then him not having a fair shake or what we told him," Francona said. "That wouldn't work. … They all can't make the team, most likely. And we really like them all. So the conversations you have toward the end of camp are very difficult conversations.
"If you know you've been honest, it helps. It doesn't make it easy, but it helps."
Quote to note
"If I told you that I knew what we were going to be doing at third base, I wouldn't be telling you the truth." -- Francona
• Francona didn't sound terribly concerned that the club's top power-hitting prospect, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, was 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts to begin his Cactus League campaign this year.
"Fourteen at-bats .... that's three, four days in a season," Francona said Monday morning. "It happens. We'd love to see him do well just because we enjoy it, but this by no means defines what he's going to be, and we know that. He probably doesn't quite understand that. I'm sure he's trying his [tail] off and trying too hard. But it'll be OK."
Aguilar flied out in his one at-bat in the Indians' 8-3 loss to the Angels on Monday, extending his streak to 0-for-15.
• Utility man Ryan Raburn will likely play designated hitter in the team's B game on Tuesday and be ready to play Cactus League games after that. Raburn was taken out of Friday's game against the Cubs after colliding with the right-field wall while tracking down a fly ball and suffered a left knee contusion and a cut lip.
"He's doing much better," Francona said.
• The Indians announced Monday that they signed the following players with zero to three years of big-league service time to one-year Major League contracts: RHP Cody Allen, LHP Scott Barnes, RHP Carlos Carrasco, C Gomes, IF Erik Gonzalez, RHP Preston Guilmet, LHP Nick Hagadone, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Carlos Moncrief and RHP Bryan Price. The club also renewed the 2014 contract of RHP Zach McAllister. All players on the 40-man roster are currently under signed contractual agreement.