GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians plan on giving Carlos Carrasco every opportunity to win the fifth spot in their rotation. After an offseason of working on an alteration to his delivery, the right-hander heads into camp as a leading candidate for that job.
"They've lifted his lead arm a little bit," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "just to create a little deception and some angle on his fastball. I know he's comfortable. He's had a good winter. He's strong. He's excited. It's his time to go show what he can do."
As things currently stand, Carrasco joins Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and non-roster invitee Shaun Marcum as the top options for the lone vacancy within the starting staff. Of the three rostered players, the 26-year-old Carrasco is the only one without Minor League options, meaning he would need to be exposed to waivers before potentially being sent to Triple-A.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti noted over the offseason that Carrasco would be on the Opening Day roster in some capacity, barring an unforeseen development this spring. If the Indians feel one of the other starting candidates is the best option for the rotation, Carrasco could slide into a relief role.
Last season, which was Carrasco's first year back in the big leagues after sitting out 2012 following Tommy John elbow surgery, the right-hander posted a 6.75 ERA in 15 appearances for the Indians. Within that showing, though, Carrasco had a 1.32 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP in 13 2/3 innings as a reliever.
Cleveland is hoping that Carrasco can learn from his experience in the bullpen and carry the mentality over to a starting role.
"I think anybody can learn from anything. That's the whole idea," Francona said. "But he was definitely more aggressive when he came out of the bullpen. If he takes that to the starting mentality -- not taking pitches off, or relaxing -- yeah, definitely [it could help]."
Francona high on Brantley's value to Indians
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have not officially announced their four-year contract extension with Michael Brantley, but that did not stop manager Terry Francona from discussing the left fielder's value to the team on Wednesday.
"He's a prime example of everything that made us good," Francona said. "His ability to change positions. His ability to move around in the batting order. His two-out hitting. That's part of what made us good last year, was our versatility and guys' willingness to do whatever it took to try to win. That's really appreciated."
The Indians have reached an agreement with Brantley on a four-year, $25 million contract that includes an $11 million club option for a fifth year. The deal, which covers three arbitration years and at least one year of free agency, is expected to be announced Thursday.
Last spring, Brantley shifted out of center field and into left without complaint after Cleveland signed Michael Bourn as its new center fielder. Brantley then bounced up and down Francona's lineup throughout the season, starting games in eight of nine positions.
Overall, Brantley hit .284 with 10 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and 66 runs in 151 games last year. He was also one of Cleveland's top hitters in clutch situations, batting .305 with two outs, .375 with runners in scoring position and .364 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Francona said it is also good when a club is able to lock up a young player who is considered a part of the team's core group.
"When you start eating into their free-agent years," Francona said, "and you know you have a guy, that's terrific. Keeping the core group of guys together is exciting."
Quote to note
"I guess the hope is that, at the end of spring, we have a lot of tough decisions. That means guys did really well, and it wouldn't surprise me. We have some quality that I think is kind of flying under the radar."
-- Francona, on his long list of bullpen candidates
• Marcum, who underwent surgery in July to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, is "slightly" behind Cleveland's other starters, according to Francona. Depending on how Marcum throws and feels, he could be seven to 10 days behind other rotation candidates in terms of making his Cactus League debut.
"We kind of tried to drive home the fact that, as hard as it is, April 1 isn't the finishing line," Francona said. "It happens with so many guys. ... You've got to look at the big picture."
• Veteran right-hander Matt Capps, who has 138 career saves in parts of eight seasons in the Majors, is in camp with the Indians for the second year in a row as a non-roster invitee. Last season, the 30-year-old Capps was dealing with a torn tendon in his right shoulder that led to surgery in June.
"It was hard for them to diagnose exactly what was going on," Francona said. "He got it fixed, and everybody liked him so much and respected him so much, and I think he wanted to come back to give it another shot. He's been so diligent in what he's done that it's hard not to pull for him."
• Indians Minor League catcher Roberto Perez, who is a non-roster invitee this spring, is scheduled to arrive to camp on Thursday. Francona said the team gave Perez one extra day, because he only recently wrapped up playing winter ball.