GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rich Hill's path to the Opening Day bullpen has been paved. On Monday, the Indians selected the left-hander's contract from Triple-A Columbus, moving him from the pool of non-roster invitees to the big league club's 40-man roster.
Barring the unforeseen, that transaction puts Hill in position to break camp with Cleveland as a member of its bullpen. The Indians took a chance on Hill with a Minor League contract after the lefty returned last season from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.
Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed with what he has seen this spring.
"It's a shame, because he had gotten really hot when he got hurt," Francona said of Hill's injury in 2011. "It was probably the best roll of his career, and then last year he had a little setback. But it's pretty obvious he looks healthy. The ball has got a ton of life."
In six Cactus League appearances this spring, the 33-year-old Hill has allowed one unearned run with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
"To have news like this is obviously good," Hill said. "It's just getting ready for the season now. That's the key thing. You can lock into your routine a little bit more going forward."
Last season, Hill went 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 25 games for the Red Sox after returning from the elbow injury in April. The left-hander missed time between June and August due to a left elbow strain, but finished the season with 21 strikeouts against 11 walks in 19 2/3 innings. Hill also held left-handed hitters to a .209 average.
Hill underwent arm surgery in June 2011 after opening the season with eight shutout innings. Dr. James Andrews performed the operation.
In parts of three seasons with the Red Sox -- Hill pitched under Francona in 2010 and '11 -- the lefty went 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 40 games, during which he had 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 31 2/3 innings. For his career, Hill has gone 23-20 with a 4.59 ERA in 118 games between stints with the Cubs, Orioles and Red Sox. As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen projects to include closer Chris Perez, setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith, righty Matt Albers (out of Minor League options), and presumably Hill. Others in the mix for jobs include lefties Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes and David Huff (out of options), as well as righties Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Matt Capps (non-roster invite).
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Hill, Cleveland placed right-hander Blake Wood (right elbow) on the 60-day disabled list. The Indians also optioned Tim Fedroff, Trey Haley, T.J. House, Chen-Chang Lee and Danny Salazar to Triple-A. Non-roster invitees Matt LaPorta, Fernando Nieve and Roberto Perez were optioned to Minor League camp. The Tribe granted outfielder Ben Francisco his unconditional release.
After one frame, Dice-K exits with calf cramps
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka's bid to crack the Indians' rotation hit a minor snag. During Monday's Cactus League game against the Angels, the right-hander exited after one inning with cramps in his right calf.
Matsuzaka, who followed starter Scott Kazmir and reliever Joe Smith, took the mound for the seventh inning, but he stopped his warmup routine after a few throws. After a brief meeting on the mound, Cleveland manager Terry Francona patted the pitcher on the back, and Matsuzaka left the game with a team trainer and his interpreter.
"He was cramping in his calf," Francona said. "It's just hard to let a guy pitch like that, if he hurts himself. He came in after his first inning and he was trying to loosen it up. We told him when he went out, if it was bothering him, to let us know. You could tell when he was warming up he just couldn't get it to loosen up."
Matsuzaka worked a scoreless sixth inning prior to the injury.
This spring, the 32-year-old Matsuzaka has been competing against Kazmir -- who threw four scoreless frames against the Indians on Monday -- Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber for the fifth spot in Cleveland's rotation. Through four Cactus League appearances, including Monday's one-inning effort, Matsuzaka has posted a 2.25 ERA with three strikeouts, one walk and 10 hits allowed in eight innings.
Matsuzaka is in camp on a Minor League contract as a non-roster invitee.
Last season, Matsuzaka went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Red Sox during his comeback from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The righty has gone 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA in 56 games over the past four seasons after going 33-15 with a 3.72 in 61 games between the 2007-08 campaigns with Boston.
Controlling running game on Ubaldo's to-do list
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The last thing the Indians want to do is throw too much at Ubaldo Jimenez at once this spring. Right now, the starter's focus has been on developing an improved rhythm and faster tempo with his delivery.
If Jimenez continues to make progress with that aspect of his pitching motion, the right-hander should also see improvement in another area: controlling the running game. Last season, baserunners ran wild when Jimenez was on the mound.
"Let's go one step at a time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think one thing will lead to another. I think last year he was trying to reach back and get some velocity, and he ended up being a lot slower to the plate. This spring, he's already quicker just because he's trying to get some tempo."
The Indians found that Jimenez was nearly a full second slower to home plate last season than he was a few years ago with the Rockies.
As Jimenez's mechanics slowed, runners took advantage. Last season, Jimenez allowed an American League-high 32 stolen bases. That figured marked the second-most surrendered in the Major Leagues, trailing only A.J. Burnett (38) of the Pirates.
When pitching out of the stretch last year, Jimenez would often try to reach back to throw harder, according to Francona. That approach helped runners get better jumps on the right-hander.
"He had a little bit of rocking out of the stretch," Francona said, "where it looked like he was trying to generate some velocity. I don't think he needs to do that. I think if he stays with what he has, and stays in rhythm and just attacks the strike zone, especially down, his stuff is plenty good. I could care less what the [radar] gun says."
Indians join the Harlem Shake craze
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A long line of Indians players made their way through the team's spring complex on Monday morning, receiving strange looks and creating some laughs because of their costumes.
There was a bear, a mummy, a parrot and a penguin. Iron Man and Spider-Man strolled by, too. Then came an Ohio State University football player. The Buckeye -- wearing a uniform sent to Arizona from the Big Ten school -- was Indians first baseman Nick Swisher.
"What?" Swisher said to reporters. "You've never heard of 'Costume Monday?'"
There was more to this wild day in Goodyear than simply a bring-your-own-costume team event. The players were piecing together their own version of the "Harlem Shake" craze that caught fire last month and recently hit highlight shows when the NBA's Miami Heat posted its own version of the YouTube sensation.
The Indians' video will likely hit the Internet within the next week.
Cleveland pitcher Brett Myers dressed as a wrestler -- complete with a title belt. Pitcher Josh Tomlin donned a "Naked Cowboy" costume similar to the famous Times Square performer in New York City. Lefty Rich Hill was dressed as the Easter Bunny, and 42-year-old veteran Jason Giambi wore a green skin-tight suit that covered his entire body.
"It was fun," Giambi said. "That's the stuff you need to build team unity."
Even Indians manager Terry Francona got into the act by putting on a baby costume, which included a bonnet.
"Hey, whatever helps the team win," Indians starter Justin Masterson said. "That's what he's all about."
Francona's outfit was hand-picked by bullpen coach Kevin Cash.
"He gave me a couple choices," said Francona, rolling his eyes. "He had a bunny rabbit, but I couldn't get into it. The guys had fun with it. It was Swish's idea, which I don't think is a shock to anybody. It was all in good fun, and everybody did it. You've got to laugh at yourself a little bit."
Swisher said that was partially the point of the day's antics.
"You've got to have fun in this game, man," Swisher said. "We're kind of in the grind of spring right now. So I figured a little costume Monday would really spice it up -- take away the monotony. Man, the boys came through full force. We had so much fun this morning."
Quote to note
"The most important thing is guys being fiercely loyal to each other on the field. That's the biggest thing." -- Indians manager Terry Francona
• On Monday, the Indians signed Scott Barnes, Ezequiel Carrera, Juan Diaz, Yan Gomes, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, David Huff, Jason Kipnis, Chen-Chang Lee, Mike McDade, Cord Phelps and Josh Tomlin to one-year contracts. Cleveland renewed the contracts of Carlos Carrasco and Vinnie Pestano for the 2013 season.
• Francona indicated that Indians closer Chris Perez (right shoulder strain) felt fine on Monday, one day after resuming a throwing program. Perez played catch up to a distance of 60 feet on Sunday. His next step will likely include playing catch up to 75 feet within the next couple of days.
• With a need for innings to accommodate the many pitchers still in camp competing for jobs, the Indians have scheduled a "B" game against the Mariners on Thursday at the Tribe's Goodyear, Ariz., complex. Pitchers slated to appear include Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, Rich Hill, Matt Capps and Jerry Gil.
• Francona said that designated hitter Mark Reynolds, who has not played in a game since March 6 due to back stiffness, might be cleared to return to game action by Thursday. Reynolds will likely take batting practice with the team on Wednesday.
• Indians Opening Day starter Justin Masterson logged five innings (two hits, no runs, no walks and four strikeouts) in a "B" game against the Angels on Monday morning. Relievers Allen (one inning, three strikeouts) and Capps (one inning, one strikeout) also pitched.