GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Given Cody Allen's swift rise to the big leagues, it seemed fitting that the Indians decided not to wait until the end of camp to hand him a bullpen spot. Cleveland manager Terry Francona gave Allen the good news last week.
"It's a good feeling. It's a relief," Allen said on Saturday. "I worked hard in the offseason, trying to put myself in a position to win a spot out of camp. To know that paid off is great. It's kind of like the first step. You can break camp with the team, but if you don't do what you're supposed to, you won't be there long."
The 24-year-old Allen entered Spring Training as one of many relievers vying for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. Francona was impressed by the young right-hander early on and wanted to give Allen a chance to focus on preparing for the regular season rather than worrying about the spring competition.
Francona noticed in Allen's outing against the Giants on March 7 that the pitcher was trying too hard. Allen wound up giving up three runs on three hits with one walk and two strikeouts in an uncharacteristic performance.
"He knew he was coming in to compete -- it was very obvious," Francona said. "He was prepared. In the one game, he was competing so much. He had a man on second and two outs, and he was throwing breaking ball after breaking ball after breaking ball."
Following that game, Francona sat down with pitching coach Mickey Callaway and general manager Chris Antonetti, and Allen's appearance was brought up.
"We were like, 'We've got to tell this guy he's on the team,'" Francona said. "We called him in the next morning and I said, 'If we tell you you're on the team. will you just get ready for the season?' He said yeah. It was kind of all in fun."
Last season, Allen soared through Class A (high) Carolina, Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, posting a 1.87 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings en route to a big league promotion. With Cleveland, the righty had a 3.72 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 29 innings in 27 appearances.
"There was nothing that didn't impress us," Francona said of Allen. "There's just so much to like about him. All he needs is experience, and he'll get that quickly."
Allen was happy to receive the news that he will be on the team with three weeks left in the spring schedule.
"It kind of takes the pressure off a little bit," he said. "I can go out there and just work on things I need to work on and not focus on just trying to go get outs. The thing with me is going to be commanding my fastball more consistently early on in the counts. Now I can just go out there in an outing and just throw fastballs, just work on fastball command."
Dice-K's setback complicates rotation decision
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As the Indians enter the home stretch of their spring slate, the team is beginning to run out of innings for their starting-rotation candidates. Under the circumstances, Cleveland might soon start whittling down the competition.
On Saturday afternoon, rotation hopeful Daisuke Matsuzaka logged three innings in a Minor League game against the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate. It marked Matsuzaka's first game action since leaving his outing against the Angels on Monday after one inning due to cramping in his right calf.
Matsuzaka's showing was decent, but he is clearly behind in terms of building up his innings.
"We've got to figure out what to do going forward," manager Terry Francona said on Saturday. "Because of the setback and kind of coming in without throwing bullpens, he's only out to three innings and we're starting to run out of innings. So we're going to have to sit down tomorrow and kind of figure this out a little bit, and we will."
Cleveland technically does not have to make a decision about Matsuzaka's status for the Opening Day roster until March 26. By that date, according to the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Indians need to either place Matsuzaka on the team, or pay him a $100,000 bonus if he is willing to start the season in the Minor Leagues. In the latter scenario, Matsuzaka would be able to opt out of his contract by June 1.
It is unclear if Matsuzaka would be open to going to Triple-A Columbus.
"I don't know," Francona said. "I'm not ready to have that conversation."
Matsuzaka is currently fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation, along with Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Scott Kazmir.
In his Minor League game appearance, Matsuzaka allowed one run on four hits and ended with five strikeouts and one walk against a lineup that included seven left-handed hitters. The right-hander logged 55 pitches, including 27 in the first inning, and finished with 35 strikes. He topped out at 91 mph with his fastball, but was sitting around 88-89 for most of the outing.
"It ended up being all right," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter, Jeff Cutler. "Other than my last outing, I think I've been improving with each outing. I think I'm in a good place right now. The competition is obviously in my mind, and it's definitely something that I need to continue to focus on, but the important part is to make sure I'm all right."
Disappointed Pestano returns from Classic
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano wanted nothing more than to help Team USA win the World Baseball Classic this spring. The pitcher is instead heading back to Cleveland's camp with a bitter taste in his mouth.
During Friday's 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico, which eliminated the United States from the international tournament, Pestano surrendered two runs without recording an out in the sixth inning. Following his performance, Pestano aired his frustration on Twitter with a series of postings.
"Choked on the biggest stage of my career," Pestano wrote on his account on Friday. "Let a lot of people down tonight, this is something I cared deeply about and will stick with me. ... Being someone that prides himself on pitching in big moments this was unacceptable, gotta learn from it and be better for it in the future."
Pestano also wished his Tribe teammates, infielder Mike Aviles (Puerto Rico) and catcher Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic), luck for the Classic's semifinals in San Francisco. The Netherlands and two-time World Baseball Classic champion Japan are also in the final pool.
"This wasn't another game in March for me," Pestano wrote. "This was a win or go home for my country and I failed. I hope you know what it meant to me."
Pestano added that suiting up for his country was "the greatest honor" an athlete can receive, and hoped to take part in the Classic again in the future.
In the sixth inning against Puerto Rico on Friday, Pestano sprinted from the bullpen to the mound with a runner on first base and Team USA trailing, 1-0. Aviles led off with a single off the right-hander, who then issued back-to-back walks to Alex Rios and Carlos Rivera. Andy Gonzalez then delivered a two-run double that put the Americans in a 4-0 hole.
Pestano, who was scheduled to rejoin the Indians for Saturday night's game against the Giants at Goodyear Ballpark, posted a 2.57 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 70 innings and 70 appearances for the Tribe last season. He also set a single-season club record with 36 holds.
Indians manager Terry Francona was confident that Pestano would be able to quickly move on from the way his Classic run ended.
"I think he'll be fine," Francona said. "I think he just really cares."
Quote to note
"The first week of the season, somebody is going to go 7-0 and you'll hear them say, 'Yeah, we have the chemistry.' Chemistry is when you're losing. You see who's getting on each other. That's when you can tell who's got each others' back."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona
• Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who left Friday's Cactus League game against the Brewers early due to cramping in his right hamstring, said he was feeling better on Saturday. As a precaution, Francona said Gomes will not play in a game for the next three or four days -- likely returning after Tuesday's scheduled team off-day.
• Indians All-Star Chris Perez threw 15 pitches off a mound in a brief throwing session during Saturday's team workout. Perez, who is returning from a right shoulder strain suffered on Feb. 26, has not been ruled out for Opening Day.
• Kazmir is slated to throw four innings in a Minor League game on Sunday. Kazmir has turned in 11 shutout innings between Cactus League and Minor League games this spring.
• The Indians' night game against the Giants on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark was officially a sellout for the team. It marked the first sellout for a spring game for the Tribe since its first season (2009) at their current Arizona site.