Perez, Francona break down pitcher's shoulder injury

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians closer Chris Perez is moving one step closer to backing up his claim that he will be ready in time for Opening Day.

Perez, who suffered a right shoulder strain on Feb. 26, is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Saturday afternoon. It will mark Perez's first game action since injuring his throwing arm in his last Cactus League appearance against the Royals.

The Indians are not ready to say if Perez will be cleared for the Opening Day roster.

"I'm still trying to kind of keep the party line," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We don't want to put that artificial deadline. When he's ready to pitch, he'll pitch. If he's healthy, obviously we'd love to have him, but only when he's ready."

Perez said earlier this week that there was "no question" he would be ready for Cleveland's April 2 season opener against the Blue Jays.

"I'll be there," Perez said on Monday. "The initial injury is gone. I'm 100 percent. Now it's just trying to get my arm strength back to where I can make 60 or 70 appearances."

Last season, Perez saved 39 games and had a 3.59 ERA in 61 appearances and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team for the second straight year. Over the past three years, Perez ranks fifth in the Majors in saves (98) and save percentage (89.1). He signed a one-year, $7.3 million contract this past winter to avoid arbitration.

During Spring Training a year ago, Perez suffered an oblique injury in his first bullpen session and was sidelined from Cactus League action until March 29. The closer logged only three official innings in three appearances and was cleared to join the Opening Day roster.

Injury won't keep Kipnis from Opening Day lineup

Kipnis excited about the Tribe's offseason additions

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Kipnis is not worried about his sore right elbow and he is definitely not concerned about the statistical showing he has turned in this spring. When Opening Day arrives, the Indians second baseman believes he will be ready to go.

Cleveland's second baseman has missed the past three Cactus League contests with a tender throwing elbow and will likely be sidelined for at least one more day, according to manager Terry Francona. If the same injury flared up during the regular season, Kipnis said he would play through it without much issue.

"I don't think it's anything that's going to linger on for too much longer," Kipnis said on Friday afternoon. "I don't think it's that serious at all. We just have the luxury to rest right now, so we'll take advantage of it. During the season, I'd be in there still all the time, and I wouldn't have a problem with it."

When Kipnis has been on the field this spring, he has performed below expectations in the batter's box.

Through 15 Cactus League games, Kipnis has hit just .154 (6-for-39) with one home run, three RBIs and nine strikeouts. The 25-year-old second baseman said he has been working on improving his approach at the plate and -- despite the results found in the box scores -- he feels he has made progress in that regard.

"I'm not really concerned about the average in Spring Training," Kipnis said. "I still have my confidence. Right now, we're just still working on things and we're trying to get our timing down and still have good at-bats. I think I'm starting to have better at-bats and swing at the right pitches."

A couple of years ago, Kipnis might have been a little more worked up over the poor on-field results.

"Yeah, I think that's fair to say," Kipnis said. "If you're trying to win a spot or you're trying to make a good impression, you're obviously wanting to put up results. But having a year now and being confident in myself, I know that I've done that in the past where I didn't hit in spring, but I'll come out of the gates on fire, or something like that."

Kipnis, who has a .220 batting average in 47 career Cactus League games, hit .257 last season for the Indians with 14 home runs, 22 doubles and 76 RBIs in 152 games. The second baseman added 31 stolen bases and 86 runs scored.

"Maybe I'm just saving all the hits," Kipnis joked. "Everyone else is using all their's up."

Francona taking aggressive tack on 3-0 counts

CLE@ARI: Brantley jacks three-run shot for early lead

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It is common practice in baseball for hitters to take a pitch when in a count consisting of three balls and no strikes. Indians manager Terry Francona does not understand why more players do not swing under such circumstances.

Cleveland's hitters will be given the go-ahead to attack 3-0 pitches in certain situations this year.

"I never quite understood why so many people just automatically take 3-0," Francona said. "If you're a smart enough hitter, and you're able to just say to yourself, 'OK, I'm going to get a certain pitch in a certain spot,' it's like a free swing.

"A lot of times, even if a guy swings 3-0 and fouls a pitch back, because they took a healthy swing, they feel better about the next pitch. I think it's great, and I think it breeds confidence."

In the first inning of Thursday's 5-4 Cactus League victory over the D-backs, Indians left fielder Michael Brantley was given the green light to swing on a 3-0 count. Brantley responded by launching the next pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run home run.

"That's the way you swing at a 3-0 pitch," Francona said.

During his tenure as the manager of the Red Sox from 2004-11, Boston led the American League with a .526 batting average on 3-0 counts, ranking second in the league in hits (40). By comparison, the Indians had the fewest at-bats (11) and hits (one) on 3-0 counts in the AL under manager Manny Acta from 2010-12. Last year, the Indians had 116 plate appearances end on a 3-0 count, but with only five at-bats with zero hits.

"I just think that too often you take the best hitter's count that can possibly be," Francona said, "and you take the bat out of the hitter's hands. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Francona noted that there are certainly situations in which a batter should take a 3-0 pitch.

"When it's more important to get a baserunner, then you give the take sign," Francona said. "Or if you can't tie the game up with one swing, you don't swing. And our guys know that. Other than that, that's a great time to hit."

Smoke signals

• Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who has been sidelined with a right hamstring injury since March 15, ran the bases during Friday's workout. Francona said Gomes might be cleared to play in a game by Saturday, but noted that Sunday might be more likely.

• Indians non-roster invitee Matt Capps -- informed earlier this week that he will not be on the Opening Day roster -- is continuing his search for another big league opportunity. Cleveland has expressed an interest to keep Capps in the Minor League system.

• Indians pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has agreed to begin the season in Triple-A, logged four innings in a Double-A game on Thursday. The right-hander allowed one run on two hits with three walks and no strikeouts in a 62-pitch effort.

• Cleveland right-hander Zach McAllister, the team's fourth starter, pitched in a Triple-A game on Thursday. Over six innings of work, McAllister surrendered six runs on six hits, finishing with three walks and two strikeouts in a 79-pitch outing.

• Saturday's 4:10 p.m. ET Cactus League game between the Indians and Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., will be aired live on MLB Network in the Cleveland television market. Lefty Scott Kazmir, a finalist for the fifth rotation spot, is scheduled to pitch for the Tribe.

Quote to note
"We hear there's a buizz going around the city, that the fans are just as excited as we are to get this season going, and that's great. That's exactly the chemistry you want between the organization and the fans in the city. I think you want both of them excited going into the season."
--Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis