Notes: Dellucci in position to produce
Bullpen competition 'wide open'; Rose turning heads
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- David Dellucci wouldn't mind having Eric Wedge's job, when it comes to lineup construction."With the amount of good hitters on this team," Dellucci said, "I would love to have to make those decisions." When the Indians signed Trot Nixon as their final transaction before reporting to Spring Training, Wedge made the decision that Dellucci will be hitting in the middle of his lineup. Before the Nixon signing, Dellucci was in line to be the No. 2 hitter, behind Grady Sizemore and in front of Travis Hafner. Batting in the fifth or sixth spot this season, Dellucci should have plenty of run-production opportunities. And the Indians believe he provides some power numbers similar to those he put up in 2005 with the Rangers, when he hit .251 with career highs in homers (29) and RBIs (65). "He's a guy that's a professional hitter," Wedge said. "He has fantastic command of the strike zone. He has the ability to get on base but also drive in runs." Dellucci, who will be the Tribe's left fielder against right-handed pitching, tailors his approach at the plate to the specific situation. If there's an RBI to be had, he feels he can get it. But if he needs to move a runner over, he's willing to do that, as well. "I take a lot of pride in knowing the game, knowing the situation and being fundamentally sound enough to get the job done," Dellucci said. "I understand doing the little things doesn't show up in the box score, but that doesn't bother me. I have no problem moving a guy over and not getting credit for it. This team is made up of those kinds of guys, and that's why it's a perfect fit for me." Wedge will likely fit the left-handed Dellucci and the right-handed Casey Blake into the fifth and sixth spots, though the exact order is undetermined, for now. For Sunday's game against the Tigers, in which Dellucci cranked out a solo homer in the fourth inning, Blake batted fifth and Dellucci sixth. Wherever Dellucci lands, he doesn't seem to mind. Especially in an Indians lineup that finished second in the Majors with 270 runs last season. "I've hit everywhere in the lineup from leadoff to eighth," he said. "I hit a good number of times in the fifth or sixth spot and a good number in the one or two spot. One through nine doesn't matter in this lineup, because you're going to get pitches to hit."
Sorting it out: Beyond Joe Borowski, Roberto Hernandez, Aaron Fultz and Rafael Betancourt, Wedge isn't ready to anoint anybody as a "definite" to make the club's bullpen."We want to make sure we leave this thing open," Wedge said. "Everyone needs to feel like they're fighting for a spot." Wedge did admit that Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera have an edge on two of the three remaining spots, though that's obvious, given they are both out of Minor League options. Matt Miller, if healthy, and Tom Mastny are the top candidates for the final job. Wedge said he wants to stretch both of them out this spring to handle long relief, if need be. Rose blossoms: One less-publicized decision the Indians are looking to make in camp revolves around the third catcher's spot. If Ryan Garko is on the club, he'd fill in at catcher only in an emergency role. But the real third catcher, used as the first line of defense in the event of an injury to Victor Martinez or Kelly Shoppach, will be the starting backstop at Triple-A Buffalo. Thus far, non-roster invitee Mike Rose looks like the favorite for that job. The 30-year-old Rose has spent time in the Minor League systems of the Astros, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Royals, A's, Dodgers, Devil Rays and Cardinals. He saw limited time in the bigs with the A's in '04, Dodgers in '05 and Cards in '06. The Indians are evaluating Rose more from a defensive standpoint. But it's been hard to ignore his early numbers in Grapefruit League play. In his first five at-bats, the switch-hitting Rose cranked out four doubles and three RBIs. "He's shown some bat speed from both sides of the plate," Wedge said. "He has a little juice, too." The kids are all right: Right-handers Adam Miller and J.D. Martin and left-handers Aaron Laffey, Scott Lewis and Chuck Lofgren aren't in camp competing for a roster spot. But that doesn't mean pitching coach Carl Willis hasn't paid a careful eye to each of them. What jumps out at Willis about the youngsters is their comfort level in big-league camp. If they're in awe of their surroundings, they haven't shown it. "They're all comfortable enough to the point where they're able to say, 'I need a day,' or 'I'd like to throw a little more,'" Willis said. "That comes from them coming up in the organization and knowing what to expect and what we expect." Tribe tidbits: Left-hander Cliff Lee has played catch the last two days and should be ready to throw off a mound by Thursday. Lee was scratched from a scheduled start against the Phillies last Friday because of a strained right abdominal muscle, but, to this point, the injury does not appear to be serious. ... Indians.com will host two live chat sessions this week. Dellucci will chat with fans Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET, and second baseman Josh Barfield will chat Thursday at 11:30 a.m. ... Through four exhibition games, Indians catchers were batting a combined .706 (12-for-17) with six runs scored, five doubles, two homers and eight RBIs. Martinez, Shoppach and Rose had produced just two outs out of the starting catching position. ... Single-game tickets for the 2007 home schedule are now on sale on Indians.com. Fans can also purchase Pepsi Six Pack bulk-ticket plans for as low as $42. On deck: Chain of Lakes Park figures to be jam-packed with fans when the Tribe hosts the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Right-hander Fausto Carmona will make his second start of the spring opposite right-hander Chien-Ming Wang. Borowski, Hernandez, Cabrera, Aaron Laffey, Brian Sikorski and Tony Sipp are also scheduled to throw for the Indians.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.