MIN@CLE: Salazar fans four, holds Twins to two runs

CLEVELAND -- The collective pitching line of Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar has not been pretty in the first week of games for the Indians, but the ballclub has been encouraged by aspects of each outing from the starters.

All three pitchers experienced command issues in their first start of the season, but they each minimized the damage at a handful of turns. As a result, Cleveland was able to win two of the past three games entering Saturday.

"It's very encouraging," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "That's the thing you have to do. When you have your mediocre stuff or your bad stuff, how you do that day, how you keep your team in that game, that defines the pitcher. They all kept our team in the game."

In the first game of a doubleheader against the A's on Wednesday, Kluber was charged with five runs in only 3 1/3 innings, ending with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two). The right-hander stranded two runners in each of the first two innings, though.

McAllister took the mound in Wednesday's second game and promptly allowed two runs in the first inning. The right-hander saw his pitch count climb to 86, and he did not have a great feel for his fastball, but stranded a pair in the first -- escaping with consecutive strikeouts -- and found a way to work into the fifth inning.

Salazar allowed two runs in the first inning on Friday and then blanked the Twins the rest of the way en route to 5 2/3 innings.

"Part of it is because they do compete. They don't give in," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think they're probably mature more than their innings show, if not their age. I think the command will certainly improve -- they're good pitchers."

McAllister agreed that the early showing is a testament to how much the members of Cleveland's rotation come to compete.

"It shows kind of how competitive we are as pitchers," McAllister said. "All of us obviously want to go out there and put up good numbers and give our team a chance to win, but when we're not doing that, we find a way to compete and execute pitches when we really need to. That's extremely important."

Giambi likely to see Minors action before return

Francona discusses Giambi's rib injury

CLEVELAND -- Considering that Jason Giambi has gone a month without appearing in a game, the Indians are leaning toward having the veteran complete a brief Minor League rehab assignment before rejoining the active roster.

On Saturday, Indians manager Terry Francona said he has discussed the situation with Giambi, who is on the 15-day disabled list due to a fractured rib in his right side. The current plan is to have the designated hitter play at least two games prior to being activated.

The Indians are still sorting through the details of when and where Giambi will play.

"I talked to G a little bit," Francona said. "What will happen is, before he's coming back off the DL, we'll get him out to DH, [then have a day] off, and probably DH [again]. Just a couple games to make sure he sees some pitches and gets his legs going.

"That'll be close-by, whoever is home -- [Triple-A] Columbus, [Double-A] Akron. I think that'll be good enough."

Giambi was struck in the right side by a pitch from Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson during a Cactus League game on March 7. The 43-year-old part-time DH and pinch-hitter has resumed hitting activities, but inclement weather has hindered his ability to take part in normal batting practice over the past week.

"He just hasn't been able to get on the field," Francona said. "It's not his fault. He's been kind of stuck in the cage. We'll give him a couple games. He's not going to play every day. I just think that, talking to G, I don't think he needs a lot of games. I think a couple would be very beneficial."

Last season, Giambi hit .183 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 71 games as a part-time player for the Indians. Beyond those numbers, he posted a 1.181 OPS in the ninth inning and hit .271 with a .960 OPS with runners in scoring position. Giambi was also an influential part of Cleveland's clubhouse.

Francona said even a brief stop in the Minors by Giambi can benefit the players he encounters.

"It's great seeing him in our clubhouse," Francona said. "He's one of the more special guys in the game, for sure. That would be a treat for kids in the Minor Leagues. Most of those guys were around him all spring, if he goes to Triple-A. But I'm sure they'd enjoy that.

"As a Minor League manager, there's nothing better than getting a guy that does it right down there when they're rehabbing. It sends a great message."

Swish feels like 'luckiest dude on the planet'

MIN@CLE: Swisher hits a two-run blast to right

CLEVELAND -- Nick Swisher put on a show for the Indians on Friday. He launched a game-changing home run in Cleveland's home-opening win over the Twins, fired up the crowd with his on-field antics and entertained reporters in the postgame interview session.

One year after joining the Tribe as a free agent, there is no denying Swisher is comfortable with his surroundings.

"I just feel like I'm the luckiest dude on the planet, man," Swisher said. "I've got a beautiful wife. I've got the most amazing daughter. I've got the greatest job ever. I just don't see what putting a frown on my face is going to do. I'm going to be who I am. I'm going to smile. I'm going to have fun."

Last season -- the first under the four-year, $56 million contract he signed with the Tribe -- Swisher hit .246 with 22 home runs, 27 doubles and 63 RBIs in 145 games. His average was his lowest since 2008 and the 63 RBIs marked the fewest for Swisher in a full season. Throughout last year, Swisher dealt with a left shoulder issue.

Indians manager Terry Francona feels things will be different for Swisher this season.

"I think you'll see more consistency, which will lead to probably better numbers," Francona said. "He had such a good September that his numbers -- some of the categories -- were kind of what his career marks were. I think you'll see more consistency out of the chute, which will lead to better numbers."

Swisher said there was certainly more of a comfort level entering this year.

"I feel like there's not that awkward period of meeting everybody," Swisher said. "Everybody in this organization, top to bottom, knows who each other are, knows what their job is and we take a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in the locker room that we have. That's not something that comes overnight. That's something that we've really worked on and something we're continuing to build on.

"I just know I'm so happy in my life, where I'm at. I'm so happy that I made the choice to come here to Cleveland, man. It's been absolutely amazing. We've had a lot of fun just in the first year alone."

Quote to note

"Man, I was touched. I was a little surprised, but I was kind of touched. My goodness, it's nice to feel cared for or wanted in your job. I've been pretty open about wanting to come here and be a part of this and I have no ambitions on going anywhere else. It felt good."
-- Francona, on receiving rousing cheers and an ovation during introductions before Friday's home opener

Smoke signals

• The temperature in Cleveland dropped throughout Friday's home opener and the Indians and Twins played in cold conditions again on Saturday. Francona said it can be a bit of a shock to players' systems after spending Spring Training in Arizona.

"It always is. But you deal with it," Francona said. "As the guys get into a groove [in Arizona], they can go from at-bat to at-bat and feel pretty good. When you come back here in these games, even when you have a nice at-bat, it doesn't carry over, because your bat's cold, your hands are cold. Every at-bat is a grind."

• Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Friday's home opener, and he skipped the ball to Cleveland first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. Francona said he gave Hargrove some friendly ribbing for how he threw the pitch.

"I did. Everybody did," Francona said. "I had to get in line. I think by the time Grover got to the mound, he was frozen."

• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring injury) played in the first game of a doubleheader with Triple-A Columbus on Saturday as part of a rehab assignment. He went 1-for-3. Bourn could be activated by Cleveland within the next few days.

• When he took the mound to face the Twins on Friday, Salazar (24 years, 83 days) became the youngest pitcher to start a home opener for the Indians since Dennis Eckersley (21 years old, 190 days) on April 10, 1976.