GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Marc Rzepczynski is no longer the new guy. The left-hander is comfortable in Cleveland's clubhouse, and he heads into camp this spring as a virtual lock to open the season in the Indians' bullpen.
Rzepczynski earned that opportunity with the way he pitched down the stretch after the Tribe pried him away from St. Louis prior to the non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline last year.
"Zep came in, and he pitched so well that it really helped the bullpen," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Not only his numbers, but it helped everybody else."
As things currently stand, Rzepczynski joins Josh Outman (acquired via trade from the Rockies in December) as the two lefties primed for spots in Cleveland's bullpen. Closer John Axford and setup men Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw also project to be among the Opening Day relievers. There is a long list of pitchers vying for the final jobs.
The Indians capitalized on a rough start last season from Rzepczynski, who posted a 7.84 ERA in 11 games for the Cardinals, who sent him to Triple-A Memphis for most of the first half. After joining the Indians, the 28-year-old left-hander turned in a 0.89 ERA, yielding only two earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. Rzepczynski struck out 20, walked six and held lefties to a .128 average with Cleveland.
With that performance, Rzepczynski helped shore up the Tribe's left-handed relief, which had been a problem for the team early in the year.
"I just wanted to pitch well," Rzepczynski said. "They tried to get me for a reason. Usually when you get traded mid-season, you try to help, and it actually means something [for contending]. Last year, I know we needed that lefty depth a little bit, and I wanted to prove myself. This year, it's trying to build off what I did last year.
"I got back to being able to throw my breaking ball for strikes. ... When you're able to throw two or three pitches for strikes, it helps you out later on. That was the big thing for me, especially in St. Louis at the time. My breaking ball was flat and I had to rely too much on my fastball."
Indians not rushing eager top prospect Lindor
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Lindor understands the development process, but that has not hindered the shortstop's desire. Asked on Thursday when he hoped to reach the big leagues, the Indians' top prospect did not hesitate with his answer.
"As soon as possible," Lindor said.
Told of Lindor's comment, Tribe manager Terry Francona smiled.
"I'm glad," Francona replied.
None of this means that Cleveland plans on pushing the 20-year-old Lindor up the organizational chain before he is deemed ready. Lindor -- selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- advanced to Double-A Akron last year, but spent just 21 games at that level before a back injury forced him to shut things down in August.
Lindor will likely open this season back at Double-A, but a call to the manager's office with news of a promotion to Triple-A might not be far away. Francona is convinced that Lindor could pull his weight in the Majors right now when it comes to defense. There are other facets of his game that need polishing.
"His playing will dictate when he gets to the big leagues," Francona said. "Everybody wants to be in the big leagues yesterday -- that's a given -- but there is a progression, and there's things you have to go through and adjustments you make along the way.
"Whether he could handle it defensively right now, I have no doubt he could. ... But you also want to get them here when they can show they're capable of doing what they do offensively. If you get them there too quick, that's not developing. That's getting them beat up."
Lindor, who is in big league camp for the first time this spring, posted a .303/.380/.407 slash line in 104 games between Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Akron last season. Along the way, he compiled two home runs, 22 doubles, seven triples, 34 RBIs, 25 stolen bases and 65 runs, ending the year with more walks (49) than strikeouts (46).
As for the back injury, Lindor said rest was all he required.
"It was nothing bad," Lindor said. "Eventually, I ended up calling it a season, but thank God it was later on, in the last two weeks of my season. Right now, I'm feeling good. I knew I was going to be fine."
During the first week of full-squad workouts, Lindor has been spending time with Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, and staying close to Cleveland's other infielders, including second baseman Jason Kipnis. Lindor said he is trying to use Spring Training to absorb as much as he can before heading back to Minor League camp.
"I'm trying to pick their brains," he said. "I'm trying to learn from everything they know. They're in the big leagues for a reason. They obviously went through what I went through and they've accomplished everything. They're in the big leagues and they're both All-Stars, so I definitely can learn when they talk."
Shoulder injury a big setback for 'pen hopeful Capps
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have a wide-open competition for a handful of spots in their bullpen, and Matt Capps was hoping to make a serious run at one of the jobs. His chances of cracking the Opening Day roster have taken a serious hit.
On Thursday, Indians manager Terry Francona revealed that Capps suffered a strained subscapularis muscle in his right shoulder, forcing the pitcher to halt any throwing for at least the next two weeks. Capps, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder in June, said the injury flared during a long-toss session on Monday.
"It's frustrating, because I was feeling really good," Capps said. "But I think the nature of the beast with a shoulder surgery, there's usually a speed bump or two. Hopefully, this is my one."
Capps said the good news is that an MRI exam showed no damage to the areas that were repaired during his June 5 operation. That procedure was for securing a biceps tendon in the joint, while the latest setback involves a muscle that runs behind the shoulder blade and into the shoulder.
Barring another problem, Capps said he might be able to get on the mound in a Spring Training game by mid- to late-March.
"We're being proactive," Capps said. "I think it sets me three or four weeks back at the best. If it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer. The real silver lining is I got an MRI, and everything that I had repaired is completely fine."
Capps, 30, signed a Minor League contract with Cleveland for the second offseason in a row. Last year, the shoulder became a problem during the spring and then limited him to only six games at Triple-A prior to the surgery. Over the course of his career, the right-hander has posted a 3.52 ERA with 138 saves in 444 games spent with the Pirates, Nationals and Twins.
"He's worked up so hard coming back from that surgery," Francona said. "[Shutting him down will] kind of let him have a chance to show what he can do, rather than have that artificial deadline of Opening Day."
Quote to note
"I came here to learn. I came here to work hard and get better. This is an opportunity for me to improve my game. That's the most important thing, improving my game, getting better and learning from these big leaguers."
-- Lindor, who is in big league camp for the first time
• When it comes to constructing a bench, Francona said his philosophy "probably goes with who you have." What Francona has is a slew of players -- Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles and Elliot Johnson, among others -- who can handle multiple positions in both the infield and outfield.
"I love the idea that guys are versatile. That's important," Francona said. "The more guys can move around and not hurt you defensively, the better off you are. Aviles can play short, second, third, left and right. That's good. But again, with the moving around, you have to have guys that can not only move around, but they have to be able to play the position."
• Francona carried eight relievers in his bullpen for much of last season, and had even more after rosters expanded in September. That has led to questions about whether the manager plans on carrying 13 pitchers (eight relievers) or 12 pitchers (seven relievers) when the regular season begins.
"I would love to go with 13," Francona said. "I don't think we're going to be able to do that, but the more you have in the bullpen, the better."
• For the time being, Carlos Santana has put his catching gear to the side and is working exclusively at third base for the Indians. Santana has played first at times over the past few seasons, but Francona said Cleveland is not too worried about getting him reps at that position right now.
"If he can handle third," Francona said, "he can certainly put a bigger glove on and go over there and catch it."
• With seven minutes left in regulation in the women's hockey Olympic gold-medal game between the United States and Canada, Axford (a Canadian) declared that there was "plenty of time" for his country to make a comeback. Canada then erased a 2-0 deficit in the final minutes and took home the gold in overtime.