Perez, Francona break down pitcher's shoulder injury

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona is pleased with the progress made by Chris Perez, but it's still too soon to know whether the All-Star closer will recover from a right shoulder strain in time for Opening Day.

"I know it's an important day, Opening Day," Francona said, "but it's also kind of an artifical deadline. If he's ready, good. If he's not, we'll wait."

Perez threw a light 15-pitch mound session during Saturday's workout and reported no issues with his shoulder, which he injuried Feb. 26 during an outing against the Royals. Perez was scheduled to go through another abbreviated bullpen session on Monday after throwing without incident.

If Perez completes Monday's step with no lingering problems, he would then likely be cleared to resume throwing full bullpen mound sessions.

Francona said Saturday's mound workout was encouraging.

"He's doing really well," Francona said. "His intensity probably exceeded what we were expecting or hoping, but he still feels really good. That's terrific."

Perez saved 39 games last season and posted a 3.59 ERA in 61 appearances, earning a spot on the American League All-Star team for the second consecutive year. Perez ranks fifth in the Majors over the past three years in saves (98) and save percentage (89.1), and signed a one-year, $7.3 million contract this winter to avoid arbitration.

Perez suffered an oblique injury in his first bullpen session of last year's Spring Training and was sidelined from Cactus League action until March 29. The closer logged only three official innings in three appearances and was cleared to join the Opening Day roster.

Right now, Cleveland's projected Opening Day bullpen includes setup man Vinnie Pestano, sidearmer Joe Smith, lefty Rich Hill and right-hander Cody Allen. Righty Matt Albers, who is out of Minor League options, is also a front-runner for a relief role. Other candidates include Bryan Shaw, Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, Matt Capps (non-roster invitee) and David Huff (out of options).

Francona has noted that the Indians, who play 13 games in a row with no days off to open the regular season, are weighing whether to carry seven or eight relievers on the Opening Day roster. The manager would not speculate about how Perez's status might influence the makeup of the bullpen.

"To be honest with you, I don't know yet," Francona said. "Obviously, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we want to do and we'll get there. I promise you, when we leave here, we'll have a 25-man roster. I can't give you a whole lot more than that right now."

Tito welcomes Pestano back after tough Classic

Outlook: Pestano has the tools to be top reliever

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Vinnie Pestano returned to the Indians' dugout Saturday night, manager Terry Francona called him over. Francona put a hand on Pestano's shoulder, said a few words and then pulled the pitcher in close for a hug.

It was Francona's way of welcoming Pestano back after the reliever's stint with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which ended after Pestano allowed two runs in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss Friday to Puerto Rico.

"He just asked me if I enjoyed the experience, if I had a good time," Pestano said. "He said he was glad to have me back."

Pestano was happy to rejoin his Cleveland teammates, only wishing it were under different circumstances. But despite how the Americans' run in the Classic ended, Pestano did enjoy his time with the team.

"I had a tremendous time with it," Pestano said. "I'd definitely like to be a part of that again. It's just upsetting it's another four years away now. I had a blast. It was something I was really interested in doing from the end of last season. Obviously, I wish the end result was a little bit different, but it's a memory I'll always have. I met some great people."

Pestano said it was a thrill to play for USA manager Joe Torre.

"It was an awesome experience," Pestano said. "Being around [Francona], and now around Joe for just a little bit, you can see why these guys are so well respected in the game of baseball -- just the way they go about handling themselves and go about managing the guys that they're in charge of. That was definitely one of the highlights of the experience."

Pestano took his final appearance for Team USA hard and said it will take a while for the sting to fade. Asked why he seemed to care so deeply about playing in the Classic, Pestano did not hesitate with his response.

"It's an opportunity to represent my country," he said. "Those opportunities don't happen too many times for people. It's something that I've always wanted to do. I know the WBC has only been around since 2006, but the Olympics have been going on forever, and the opportunity to represent your country for baseball players are getting fewer and fewer."

Kazmir throws five innings in Minor League game

CLE@LAA: Kazmir strikes out four over four scoreless

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While the Indians played the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on Sunday, left-hander Scott Kazmir continued his push for a spot in Cleveland's rotation in a Minor League game back at the team's player development complex.

Kazmir turned in five innings of four-run ball against a Class A team from Texas' farm system and finished with 77 pitches, 54 for strikes. The left-hander gained a feel for his slider and appeared to grow stronger as his pitch count climbed.

"He was kind of battling it the first few innings," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "I thought the last two, his slider was a lot better. He was just trying to get his arm going."

Kazmir is currently battling Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Daisuke Matsuzaka for the fifth spot in the Tribe's starting staff. Through 16 spring innings, which includes three Cactus League appearances and a pair of Minor League starts, Kazmir has allowed four runs -- all Sunday -- on 16 hits with 18 strikeouts and three walks.

Kazmir gave up four runs Sunday on eight hits with five strikeouts, one walk and one wild pitch. He consistently sat around 88-92 mph with his fastball and created 13 missed swings in the last two innings compared to none in his first three frames. Kazmir was also victimized by a handful of missed plays on defense that would have likely been outs with the big league team.

Kazmir was only scheduled to throw four innings, but was able to build up to five after needing just 13 pitches to breeze through his second and third frames. Callaway was encouraged by how Kazmir ended his outing and that the lefty approached 80 pitches.

"That was perfect," Callaway said. "He feels really good and obviously the life on his fastball was still good in that last inning. That's what we're looking for."

Carson consistently impresses with defense

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After Matt Carson slammed into the center-field wall at Goodyear Ballpark while making an incredible running catch Saturday night, the Indians outfielder started to have flashbacks of another run-in with a fence.

Carson ran full-speed into the padded wall in Oakland in 2010 while with the A's, attempting to chase down what turned out to be a home run. Carson separated his left shoulder and injured his jaw after crashing into the wall.

"The wall in Oakland, it actually gave a little bit," Carson said with a smirk. "This one's in the ground here, so it's not going anywhere. I'm glad I didn't quite hit it as hard. Fortunately for my face, [the wall in Oakland] gave a little bit."

The 31-year-old Carson made the catch in the third inning Saturday, robbing Giants catcher Jackson Williams of extra bases. Carson had one of his elbows jam him in the rib cage while making the grab, knocking the wind out of him. He quickly waved off head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, who was jogging out to center with manager Terry Francona.

Francona has been impressed with Carson's defense all spring.

"He goes to play center field and he plays a good center field," Francona said. "He throws as good as anybody we have. There's a lot to like."

Carson, who is in camp on a Minor League contract as a non-roster invitee, knows Cleveland has plenty of center fielders already with Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera. Under the circumstances, Carson -- hitting .321 with four homers and eight RBIs this spring -- has been thrilled to receive as much playing time as he has.

"I've been very happy with the opportunities that I've gotten," Carson said. "All you can ask for is to get playing time, and to [Francona's] credit, he's gotten me in there as much as he can. I don't think anybody really does exactly what they want to do [during the spring], but I've felt like I've put a good foot forward.

"This is a great team. They've got a lot of good guys. I'm just looking, when the opportunity to comes, whether it's now, later or whatever, just to be ready."

Smoke signals

• Francona sat down with general manager Chris Antonetti and assistant GM Mike Chernoff on Sunday to discuss the next step with Matsuzaka, who is only built up to three innings and around 60 pitches with two weeks left in camp. Francona said they will likely meet with the pitcher Monday to continue the conversation.

Cleveland needs to make a roster determination on Matsuzaka, who is in camp on a Minor League contract, by March 26, when the Indians need to either place the righty on the active roster or pay him a $100,000 bonus if he is willing to accept a Minor League assignment. In the latter scenario, Matsuzaka would be able to opt out of his contract on June 1.

• Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been slow out of the gates this spring, hitting just .162 (3-for-37) with nine strikeouts and one walk through 14 Cactus League games. Francona said he is not concerned by Kipnis' spring showing.

"He's going to be fine," Francona said. "When I told you guys I hadn't looked at batting average, I haven't looked at one batting average. I wouldn't begin to know what guys are hitting."

• Indians first baseman Nick Swisher has been away from the team for a couple days due to personal reasons. Swisher is expected to return to Arizona on Sunday night and will rejoin the ballclub Monday.

Quote to note

"That kid told [bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr.], 'I want to get in this game and be a hero.' Then he hit that ball, and the whole dugout, it was like we won the World Series. There was so much jumping around, it was great."
-- Francona, on Minor Leaguer Delvi Cid, who delivered a walk-off triple in Saturday's 4-3 win against the Giants