Outlook: Raburn offers decent pop in part-time role

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ryan Raburn has been in camp for the Indians for several days. A running joke around the complex is that the Cleveland utility man showed up early because pitchers were required to report ahead of position players.

Even Raburn quips that he is waiting to find out when his first mound session is scheduled.

"I've been asking them when I'm supposed to go out there," Raburn said with a smirk on Saturday. "They said, 'We're going to hold off and wait until later on in the spring. We don't want people out there getting scouting reports.'"

Raburn returns as a multi-faceted weapon for Cleveland, but emergency reliever -- a role he filled with one shutout inning in a blowout loss to the Tigers on Aug. 8 last year -- is not in the plans. What the Indians envision once again is a corner outfielder with the ability to handle a few infield spots, including some work at first base.

This spring, Raburn will get plenty of reps at first base, while assuming his usual role as the right-handed option for right field. While it is not expected to be a strict platoon, the Indians will likely use Raburn mainly against left-handed pitching and lefty-swinging David Murphy in right field against right-handers.

First base, which is Nick Swisher's spot, is just another role to add to the equation.

"It's just having one more position where you can get his bat in the lineup," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Raburn. "On a day game when somebody is tired, or when somebody is nicked up, that's a nice bat to have in there."

Last season, Raburn hit .272 overall with 16 home runs (the most in the big leagues among players with fewer than 300 plate appearances), 55 RBIs and a .901 OPS in 87 games. Against left-handed pitching, Raburn hit at a .308 clip with a 1.020 OPS. Down the stretch, though, Raburn was hindered by a variety of leg injuries.

Raburn said the offseason helped alleviate the issues.

"Man, it went from one leg to the other," said Raburn, who dealt with knee, ankle, foot and calf discomfort at different points. "Once one leg started feeling good, the other one would start feeling worse. Then that one would start feeling good, and the other one would start feeling worse.

"It was like, 'Lord have mercy.' It was just an accumulation of everything. That's the main thing for me, is I'm not feeling too bad right now."

Non-roster invitee Harang a rotation possibility

MIL@NYM: Harang fans seven over six one-run frames

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are always on the hunt for more depth in their rotation. One more option walked through the doors of Cleveland's spring complex on Saturday morning.

The Indians signed veteran right-hander Aaron Harang to a Minor League contract that includes a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. Harang -- already sporting Tribe gear -- spent time chatting with some of his new teammates in the clubhouse before undergoing a physical to complete the deal.

"Aaron will come into camp with a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He pitched well at the end of the year [in 2013]. His stuff was consistent with where it's been in the past. He maintained a consistent strikeout rate and his walk rate actually improved. He just gave up a few more home runs last year."

As things currently stand, the Indians' rotation has four virtual locks in Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister. The fifth spot is up for grabs between Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer and Harang.

Last year, the 35-year-old Harang split the season between the Mariners and Mets, going 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 26 starts. He logged 143 1/3 innings, ending the year with 113 strikeouts against 40 walks. Harang was released by Seattle on Aug. 31 before being signed by New York at the start of September.

In parts of 12 seasons in the Major Leagues, Harang has gone 110-116 with a 4.28 ERA in 325 appearances between stops with the A's, Reds, Padres, Dodgers, Mariners and Mets. In 2006-07 with Cincinnati, the right-hander went a combined 32-17 with a 3.75 ERA in 70 games. Since the onset of the '08 season, he has gone 47-67 with a 4.41 ERA in 163 appearances.

Righty Tomlin loses arbitration hearing

TB@CLE: Tomlin two-hits Rays over seven to earn win

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians always prefer to avoid arbitration with their players, but the club has made it clear this year that it will go to a hearing, if necessary.

On Saturday, MLB.com confirmed that Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin lost his case against Cleveland, meaning he will earn $800,000 in the upcoming season. Tomlin, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, had been seeking $975,000 leading up to Friday's hearing.

With the arbitration panel's decision now known, Tomlin's focus can return to the mound.

"I'm very happy that it's over with," Tomlin said. "Now, all my focus and energy is straight to baseball and helping this team win as many games as we can."

This spring, Tomlin is one of five primary candidates for the fifth rotation spot, along with Carlos Carrasco, Shaun Marcum, Trevor Bauer and Aaron Harang. Tomlin was a key part of Cleveland's starting staff a couple seasons ago, but the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2012 and spent most of last season recovering from the procedure.

Tomlin, 29, was limited to just one September appearance (two innings) with the Indians last year, but went 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 27 1/3 Minor League innings, which included 21 strikeouts and no walks. Tomlin had rehab stops with four affiliates before joining the Tribe's bullpen for the stretch run.

If he does not win a rotation job, Tomlin might be an option for the bullpen again.

"I love the competition," Tomlin said. "I think it makes everybody that's competing for that spot better. Whether you end up in the bullpen or whether you end up in that fifth spot, it is what it is. You compete your butt off and you try to do the best you can. For going into the season, it makes you that much better and that much sharper. I think it's good for everybody."

Tomlin's best season came in 2011, when he went 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA in his first nine turns before finishing the year 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA across 26 starts (165 1/3 innings). In parts of four seasons with Cleveland, the right-hander has gone 23-19 with a 4.92 ERA in 60 games (54 starts).

Cleveland also won a hearing against reliever Vinnie Pestano, who will earn $975,000 this season after asking for $1.45 million. If needed, the Indians have a hearing scheduled Thursday for starter Justin Masterson ($11.8 million against $8.05 million). Prior to this year, the Indians had not gone to a hearing with a player since 1991.

"For me, it's just separating the on-field stuff from the business side of it," Tomlin said. "Once you separate that, you understand you're going into it for business reasons alone. It's just a difference of opinions and you let someone else handle it. That way there's not any kind of animosity."

Quote to note

"I made that mistake. My first year as a manager, we were going to do everything bigger and better than every team out there. Half the pitchers couldn't throw. They were like dragging around their elbows, and I was like, 'Way to go. We showed them.'"
--Francona, on the danger of overworking pitchers in the spring

Smoke signals

• Indians right-hander Frank Herrmann threw off a mound in a live batting practice session on Saturday, marking his first such workout since undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring. Herrmann heads into camp among a large group of relievers vying for a spot in the bullpen.

"I was happy for Frank. It's been a long road back," Francona said. "He looks strong. This is another step in his development and process coming back. He faced hitters on the field. There's going to be a gradual progression to when he gets into a game. But he's strong and I was thrilled for him."

• Indians Minor Leaguer Tony Wolters, who is in big league camp this spring, began a transition from the middle infield to catching last season. Francona has had a chance to see Wolters over the past several days and said the prospect fits right in with the catchers.

"A left-handed-hitting catcher, you can make a pretty good living doing that," Francona said. "All the attributes he had in the middle infield are carrying over to the catching. ... The type of things we knew about him as a person have really helped his transition."

• Francona said there is never a handshake agreement with a non-roster invitee about making the Opening Day roster at the end of the spring. The manager said, if anything, he lets players in that group know that making the team could be a difficult task.

"I probably paint the picture a little bleaker to everybody I talk to," Francona said. "I don't ever want to lead somebody on. ... That's the last thing I ever want to do, is lie to somebody or get them here under false pretenses. So when I'm talking to them, I probably make the situation look a little less than it is."

• The full squad was required to report to Spring Training by Saturday and Francona said that he has not been alerted of any late arrivals. Physicals for position players are scheduled for Sunday, when Francona and Antonetti will also meet with each player to discuss goals for the spring and season ahead.