GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are asking sinkerballer Justin Masterson to lead their rotation for the second season in a row.
On Tuesday, Cleveland manager Terry Francona informed Masterson that he will be given the ball on Opening Day against the Blue Jays on April 2 in Toronto. It marks Masterson's second consecutive opening nod.
"I didn't feel like holding it in. I was excited to tell him," Francona said. "I think he's the leader of our staff. We want him to be the leader of the staff, and I think he's taken that responsibility."
Francona delivered the news to Masterson in the home dugout at Goodyear Ballpark prior to Cleveland's Cactus League contest against the Royals.
"I was happy. I was hoping for it," Masterson said. "Tito and I talked over the offseason about some things, and that it might be a possibility. It turns out it is. I'm excited to have another opportunity to get out there and set the tone just like I want to. You can never expect anything, but it's something I hoped for."
Last season, Masterson endured an up-and-down campaign, finishing the year 11-15 wth a 4.93 ERA in 34 outings for the Indians. Over 206 1/3 innings -- the second straight year he logged at least 200 frames -- Masterson mixed in 159 strikeouts and 88 walks.
In his Opening Day outing a year ago, Masterson turned in one of his best performances of the season. Facing Toronto at home, the right-hander scattered two hits and allowed just one run, piling up 10 strikeouts against one walk in eight stellar innings of work. Masterson picked up a no-decision for his effort.
"That was great, because it was at home," Masterson said. "It was a lot of fun. This year, it's going to be on the road in a different country. It was great last year. Packed house, lots of energy with everyone there. That made it fun."
Masterson received his first Opening Day assignment after a breakout showing in 2011. In 34 games that season, the starter went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA and 216 innings. Along the way, he struck out 158 hitters and issued 65 free passes.
Francona mentioned recently that Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez would be matching up against the top two starters from rival clubs this season. If that plan holds, Jimenez would slot into the starting staff as the No. 2 arm with his first outing scheduled for April 3 in Toronto.
Behind Masterson and Jimenez, the Indians' only perceived lock for the rotation is righty Brett Myers, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the club over the winter. Right-hander Zach McAllister is the favorite for the fourth job, while Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber, Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Huff are in the mix for the final opening.
Brantley to miss at least 10 days with laceration
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Michael Brantley did not ask the doctors how many stitches were used to close the laceration in his left forearm on Monday afternoon. All the Indians left fielder was concerned about is how much time he is going to miss with the injury.
"I didn't need the details," Brantley said on Tuesday morning. "I just want to know when I'm coming back."
Cleveland is hoping Brantley will not be sidelined for too long.
Tribe manager Terry Francona indicated that Brantley will be shut down from all activities for a period of three days, giving the young outfielder time to heal after being spiked in the arm while sliding into third base in Monday's 14-10 win over the A's. Francona added that Brantley would likely need at least 10 days before being cleared for game action.
"It'll be a progression," Francona said. "We definitely want this thing to heal and heal properly. I'd bet you it'd be about 10 days. That's probably a pretty good estimate. There's not a reason to rush this thing whatsoever."
While Brantley is sidelined, the Indians will have an opportunity to rotate a handful of players through left field while evaulating their fourth outfielder options. For Tuesday's home game against Kansas City, Minor Leaguer Tim Fedroff got the nod in Brantley's position.
The injury occurred in the third inning on Monday when Brantley laced a double into the left-center gap at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Oakland used two cut-off men on the play, pulling third baseman Josh Donaldson away from his position. With no one covering third, Brantley attempted to take an extra base.
As Brantley slid headfirst into the bag, Donaldson stepped on the outfielder's left forerm. Brantley promptly exited the game and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, where he received 10 stitches (10 external and five internal). On Tuesday morning, Brantley was wearing a protective splint on his arm.
"I'm tough," Brantley said with a smile. "I've been stepped on once or twice. Who hasn't? But nothing to this magnitude. The cleat kind of got in there pretty good and left a nice little cut. They haven't really told me too much, just that they want to make sure I rest and make sure it heals."
In 149 games last season, Brantley hit .288 with a .348 on-base percentage in a breakout showing for Cleveland. Along the way, he mixed in six home runs, 37 doubles, 60 RBIs and 63 runs scored.
Brantley's injury also interupted a strong start to the spring slate. Through three Cactus League games, the left fielder had gone 5-for-6 with four doubles and two RBIs for the Tribe. Francona raved about that early showing.
"I wish you could bottle where his swing is at," Francona said. "He hit four doubles and he kept everything fair and he went from left-center to the right-field line. It was gorgeous."
Reliever Albers gets rare start vs. Royals
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One of baseball's long-standing traditions is that starting pitchers typically do not speak to reporters before a game on the day of their scheduled outing. It is not often that a reliever gets to take advantage of this aspect of clubhouse culture.
Matt Albers was reminded of the unwritten rule on Tuesday morning.
"Yeah, that's right," Albers said with a laugh. "I might exercise that right."
For Tuesday's game against Kansas City, Albers was given the ball as Cleveland's starter on a day designed for the team's relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona said Albers got the nod because he felt the pitcher had the ability to stay with his normal approach, even in unusual circumstances.
Albers and right-hander Bryan Shaw were among the relievers who appeared in the Cactus League tilt against the Royals. Both pitchers were acquired from the D-backs on Dec. 11 as part of the nine-player, three-team trade that involved the Reds, and also brought pitcher Trevor Bauer and outfielder Drew Stubbs to the Tribe.
Albers, who is out of Minor League options, is a leading candidate for a spot in Cleveland's bullpen. Shaw is also in the running for one of the few available relief roles, along with the likes of Cody Allen, Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, David Huff, Scott Barnes and Matt Capps, among others.
Albers allowed one run on two hits with one walk and a strikeout in his lone inning of work against the Royals on Tuesday. Shaw also gave up one run in one inning of relief for the Tribe.
"I like the fact that he'll take the ball every day," Francona said of Albers, who pitched for the manager in Boston in 2011. "He can almost survive on one pitch, which is his two-seamer. When it's good, it's got so much life in the zone. But he's durable. Shaw's got that cutter that really has a chance to be a pretty explosive pitch."
Last season, the 30-year-old Albers worked in 63 games between stints with the Red Sox and D-backs, who landed the righty in a July 31 trade with Boston. Albers went 3-1 and posted a 2.39 ERA over 60 1/3 innings, during which he compiled 44 strikeouts and 22 walks.
Shaw had a 3.49 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 64 games for Arizona last season.
"I was excited to be able to come over here," Albers said. "Especially after I saw they made a couple moves, and then later in the offseaso they made even more moves. It was exciting. Coming here with Shaw, knowing him and a couple other guys.
"I've kind of been through the team-changing [process], so I'm kind of used to meeting guys and getting acclimated. I think it's going well here so far. I think I'm fitting in pretty good."
Quote to note
Quote to note "I'm just disappointed I'm not going to play with my teammates. This Spring Training, we're all kind of gelling and meshing. We've got new faces everywhere. I don't know how long, but I'll miss a couple games, some time. I don't want to ever do that."
-- Brantley on being sidelined with an injured left forearm
• Indians' single-game tickets for the regular season went on sale on Monday, and the April 8 home opener against the Yankees sold out in six minutes. Single-game sales are up over 40 percent from last year and nearly double the 2011 totals, according to the team. Tickets can be purchased by calling 216-420-4487 or by visiting Indians.com.
• Indians reliever Joe Smith (left abdominal strain) threw off a mound in a bullpen session without any issues on Monday. Smith is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice workout on Thursday morning. The reliever is on pace to potentially be cleared for Cactus League games by next week.
• Francona said bunting is "a big part" of center fielder Michael Bourn's offensive game. Dating back to the start of the 2008 season, Bourn ranks second in the Major Leagues in both bunt hits (59) and infield singles (175).