Santana, Francona on move to third base

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Spring Training games will provide the true test for Carlos Santana in his transition from catching to third base. The Indians will just have to wait to see what other contests bring, because Santana's debut at the hot corner Thursday was mostly uneventful.

In Santana's first professional game at third since June 2008, when he was still a farmhand in the Dodgers' system, no balls were hit in his direction. Santana stayed on the field for two innings and his only action was successfully corraling a relay throw from the outfield.

As Santana continues the potential move to third base, Indians manager Terry Francona plans to do everything possible to help with the comfort level.

"There's going to be so much of a microscope on him," Francona said. "The best thing I can do is probably help take it off. Let the kid play."

Santana's shift to third base comes in the wake of Yan Gomes' emergence as Cleveland's starting catcher. The switch-hitting Santana -- the Tribe's planned cleanup hitter -- has played first base and designated hitter in the past, but he began working on third over the offseason. During winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Santana manned third in roughly 30 games.

After working as a catcher for the first few days of camp this spring, Santana moved exclusively to third base in morning workouts. He will continue to play only third for at least a couple weeks, giving Cleveland time to evaluate how he responds to game-speed situations.

Santana's only action in Thursday's game against the Reds came in the second inning, when Zack Cozart doubled into the left-center field gap and tried to stretch it into a triple. Center fielder Michael Bourn retrieved the ball and fired it to shortstop Mike Aviles, who then fired a one-hopper to Santana. The third baseman gloved it cleanly and swiftly applied a tag on Cozart for an out.

"He's trying to prove something," Francona said. "Whether it's to himself or to us or both, he's trying. And he's been very consistent with his approach."

Masterson optimistic about contract negotiations

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have continued to work to find a middle ground in long-term contract negotiations with All-Star pitcher Justin Masterson. Following his first start of the spring Thursday, Masterson sounded more optimistic about the chances of signing on the dotted line.

Nothing is imminent, but progress has been made behind the scenes.

"I figure somehow, some way," Masterson said, "I'll end up still being here for a few more years."

Masterson, who would be eligible for free agency next winter, avoided arbitration with the Indians by signing a one-year, $9.76 million contract on Feb. 18. Throughout the negotiation process for that deal, Cleveland and Masterson's representative, Randy Rowley, engaged in talks on a multiyear deal. When those talks stalled, the sides concentrated on the one-year pact.

Both the Indians and Masterson made it known that they were open to picking up the long-term discussions throughout Spring Training. The talks resumed earlier this week and will likely continue this coming weekend and in the weeks ahead. Numbers were exchanged and the sides are doing what they can to find a deal that is deemed fair for both the team and the pitcher.

Masterson hardly sounded like his contract situation would be a distraction.

"You hire people to work for that," said Masterson, who went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings last season. "We have our understanding and in the end it all takes care of itself. I think I've been blessed with the ability to just go out and play the game. Everything else falls into place.

"There's nothing monumental yet, but yeah, we've talked," he added. "As we've talked, I imagine that if something gets done, it'd be before the season begins. That's kind of where we're at. We've got a few weeks."

In his first spring start, Masterson held the Reds off the scoreboard in one inning of work. The big sinkerballer stuck with fastballs and ended with two strikeouts and one hit allowed. Masterson noted that he would likely begin mixing in some sliders in his next start, which is scheduled for Saturday against the Mariners.

"In a live game, you get a little amped up early on," Masterson said. "That's always my battle -- getting a little amped up. I had to settle down a little bit and try to throw some four seamers and some sinkers."

New collision rule hard to train for in drills

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not plan on adding any spring drills in the wake of the new experimental rules for home-plate collisions. Francona feels it is too hard to simulate the kind of plays that the rules cover.

"You can't practice sliding into the plate," Francona said Thursday. "Guys would get killed. We do it on a mat, but you can't do that. I don't know how you could. That's why it's so difficult, because it's going so fast. And it's happening from angles that you may only see once.

"So, [the players] just need to understand the rule, and then play the game."

Rule 7.13, which was announced by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Monday, says that catchers are not allowed to block home plate without the ball in hand. It also states that runners must not deviate from their path to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher.

During a meeting Thursday morning with Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, and MLB umpire supervisor Steve Palermo, Francona had the chance to ask questions about some of the gray area that exists within the new guidelines.

The meeting helped Francona determine how to approach the rule with his players.

"We explained to [the catchers] that they have to let the runner have a piece of the plate," Francona said. "If you don't, you might get some contact. You always need to be prepared for contact anyway, because if you get hit, somebody breaks the rule, but if you break a leg that doesn't help. It's really pretty similar to how it's always been, but you need to give a lane to the guy trying to score so he'll slide.

"We're going to instruct our players to slide. I think over the course of the year, we'll be better off doing that. It takes out all the ambiguity. Nobody can say we ran somebody over. We're not going to lose a run late, and I think we'll be better off for it."

Quote to note

"You saw all sides of it last year. The enthusiastic side. The fun-loving side. The side that maybe wasn't too happy about DHing. During the course of a season, you see everything in everybody. It's pretty hard for something to slip by. This is probably as consistent as I've seen him, though."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Carlos Santana's personality

Smoke signals

• Indians starter Danny Salazar's throwing program has put him slightly behind the rest of the pitchers early in camp. Cleveland is just taking a conservative approach with Salazar, whose first live batting practice session is scheduled for Saturday.

• Tribe reliever Vinnie Pestano, who has also taken a gradual approach to the first weeks of Spring Training, is slated to make his first Cactus League appearance Monday against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz. Also on Monday, reliever Frank Herrmann, who had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last spring, is scheduled to throw a simulated game.

• Indians right-hander Shaun Marcum, who is in camp as a non-roster rotation candidate, will be limited to bullpen sessions over the course of the next week. Cleveland has taken things slowly with Marcum, who is returning from July surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.

• The Indians have added a "B" game to their Spring Training schedule. On Tuesday, Cleveland will host the Angels in a 10 a.m. MT tilt at the Tribe's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. The game is unofficial, meaning it does not count in the Cactus League standings.