Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/3/12
Spring training wasn't even a week old before the Indians were hit by their first two injuries of camp, and both were serious. Outfielder Grady Sizemore underwent back surgery and will be lost for two-to- three months, while closer Chris Perez strained a left oblique during his first bullpen session of the spring. Perez is expected to miss the bulk of training camp, although he hopes to be pitching again near the end of March, with hopes that he could still make it back in time for opening day. The injuries mean Manager Manny Acta and his staff will have the added challenge this spring of identifying replacements for Sizemore and, perhaps, Perez. Acta said Michael Brantley probably will move from left field to center for as long as Sizemore is out. Brantley also will replace Sizemore in the leadoff spot. The question then becomes who replaces Brantley in left field? The Indians have plenty of options in camp for that spot, including Shelley Duncan, Ezequiel Carrera, Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, Fred Lewis, Felix Pie, and Chad Huffman, to name a few. Although the Indians' projected starting lineup is heavy with left-handed hitters, Acta said when deciding who will play left field it won't matter from which side of the plate that hitter hits. "Nobody is going to get a job here just because he hits from a certain side of the plate," Acta said. Whether Acta will have to anoint an interim closer in place of Perez won't be known until the Indians get closer to opening day and Perez's status for being there is better known. If a temporary closer is needed, the obvious choice would be right-hander Vinnie Pestano. The 27-year-old Pestano was the Indians' most hard-to-hit reliever last year. In 67 appearances he had a 2.32 ERA while averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and holding opposing batters to a .184 batting average. Pestano does have some brief experience in the closer's role, having saved two games in 2012 and one in 2011. NOTES, QUOTESSizemore goes back to surgery and the injured list --OF Grady Sizemore's 2012 season will begin the way his 2011 season ended, with an injury. Sizemore is recovering from lower back surgery, which he underwent on March 1. The procedure was a micro disectomy on Sizemore's lower back. He is expected to miss two-to-three months. "I feel bad for him," manager Manny Acta said. "It seems like he can't catch a break the last few years." Sizemore has had six surgeries, including on both knees, since 2009. He was on the disabled list three times in 2011. Sizemore signed a one-year, 5 million contract with the Indians after becoming a free agent when the club chose not to exercise a 9 million club option on his contract for 2012. --RHP Chris Perez hopes to be back before the start of the regular season after straining a left oblique while throwing during his first bullpen session of spring training. The projected recovery time for the injury, according to Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff, is four-to-six seeks. It's possible Perez could pitch in some exhibition games at the end of March, and his being ready for opening day has not been ruled out. "Opening day is not out of the question," Perez said. "Luckily, I'm a reliever. I don't have to build my arm up to pitch six or seven innings (like a starter)." --OF Michael Brantley, who was penciled in to be the Indians' left fielder, now is the leading candidate to replace injured OF Grady Sizemore in center field. Sizemore is will miss the first month or two of the season while recovering from back surgery on March 1. "Michael has spent the majority of the last two years in center field, and we have several candidates we will look at in left field," manager Manny Acta said. Among the candidates to replace Brantley in left are OF Shelley Duncan, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Aaron Cunningham, and non-roster invitees OF Ryan Spilborghs, OF Felix Pie, OF Fred Lewis, and OF Chad Huffman. --INFOF Russ Canzler, trying to win a spot on the opening day roster, was the star of the Indians' last intrasquad scrimmage March 1. Canzler was 2-for-3 with a grand slam and 5 RBI. He was the MVP of the International League last season while playing at Class AAA Durham, where he batted .314 with 18 home runs and 83 RBI. --RHP Derek Lowe, who is expected to be in the Indians' rotation, was 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA for Atlanta last year. He led the National League in losses. "It had nothing to do with age," the 38-year-old Lowe said. "It had everything to do with my mechanics." BY THE NUMBERS: 70 -- Average number of games OF Grady Sizemore has played in each of the last three years while battling a series of injuries. QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel awful for the guy, because he worked so hard on his rehab in the offseason." -- General manager Chris Antonetti, on OF Grady Sizemore, who was completing his rehab on his surgically repaired right knee two weeks before the start of training camp when he sustained a lower back strain that resulted in surgery that will cause him to begin the 2012 season on the disabled list. ROSTER REPORT OF Grady Sizemore underwent lower back surgery on March 1 that will cause him to start the season on the disabled list. OF Michael Brantley is expected to replace Sizemore in center field and in the leadoff spot in the batting order. The replacement for Brantley in left field will come from a group that includes OF Shelley Duncan, OF Aaron Cunningham, OF Ryan Spilborghs, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Felix Pie, OF Fred Lewis, and OF Chad Huffman. PROJECTED ROTATION: 1. RHP Justin Masterson 2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez 3. RHP Josh Tomlin 4. RHP Derek Lowe 5. RHP Kevin Slowey The all-right-handed rotation remains all right-handed, even without RHP Fausto Carmona, who will start the season on the restricted list after his arrest in the Dominican Republic for identity theft. Slowey, acquired in a trade with Colorado the day after Carmona's arrest, is the favorite to take Carmona's spot in the rotation. Slowey is out of minor league options, which could give him a leg up on the other candidates -- RHP Jeanmar Gomez, RHP Zach McAllister, and LHP David Huff. Masterson had a breakout season last year and will probably get the Opening Day nod over Jimenez, who was a major disappointment last year after being acquired in a blockbuster mid-season trade. Tomlin is a strike-throwing machine who led the majors in 2011 with an average of only 1.1 walks per nine innings. Lowe, acquired at the start of the offseason in a trade with Atlanta, led the NL in losses last year, going 9-17 for the Braves. At 38, he bears watching. PROJECTED BULLPEN: RHP Chris Perez (closer) RHP Joe Smith RHP Vinnie Pestano LHP Rafael Perez LHP Tony Sipp LHP Nick Hagadone RHP Dan Wheeler All the key guys are back from last year's bullpen, which had a 3.71 ERA to rank fifth in the AL. Chris Perez was fourth in the league with 36 saves and fourth in save percentage (90 percent). Smith's 2.01 ERA ranked fourth among AL relievers, Pestano averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings, Rafael Perez tied for second in the AL in appearances (71), and Sipp held right-handed hitters to a .180 batting average. Hagadone, a rookie, made nine appearances late last season and was nearly unhittable (.118 opponents batting average), if erratic (11 walks in 11 innings). Wheeler, a free agent, signed a minor league contract, but has plenty of major league experience and looks like the leading candidate for the last spot in the bullpen. Other candidates are RHP Frank Herrmann and non-roster invitees RHP Jeremy Accardo, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, RHP Chris Ray, RHP Robinson Tejeda, and RHP Danny Salazar. PROJECTED LINEUP: 1. CF Michael Bradley 2. SS Asdrubal Cabrera 3. RF Shin-Soo Choo 4. C Carlos Santana 5. DH Travis Hafner 6. 1B Casey Kotchman 7. 2B Jason Kipnis 8. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall 9. LF Shelley Duncan So much depends on Sizemore's health, but if able, he will return to his customary spot at the top of the lineup, although Indians' officials acknowledge the days of him playing 150-plus games are gone. Cabrera is coming off one of the best offensive seasons of any shortstop in franchise history, while Choo hopes to bounce back from a season basically lost to injuries. Santana has all-star potential. He'll also, like last year, make some starts at first base, mostly against tough left-handers, who would give lefty-hitting Kotchman trouble. Chisenhall had a big spring last year and might need it again in order to win the third base job over veteran Jack Hannahan, a superb defender. Brantley would move over to center field on days Sizemore is not in the lineup. TOP ROOKIES: LHP Scott Barnes could pitch his way into the competition for the rotation spot vacated by RHP Fausto Carmona. Barnes was 7-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 15 starts at Class AAA Columbus last year. INFOF Russ Canzler, acquired from Tampa Bay for cash, could be insurance at the corner infield and outfield spots. He was the MVP in the International League last season, batting .314 with 18 home runs, 83 RBI and a .401 on base percentage. MEDICAL WATCH: --RHP Chris Perez (strained left oblique) was injured early in spring training. He is out until at least late March and might be ready for Opening Day.
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