Walters' versatility key to contributing with Indians

25-year-old aims to land utility role in Spring Training

Walters' versatility key to contributing with Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Zach Walters has seven different gloves in his possession, but he still found himself one short when the Indians asked him to try his hand at first base this spring. Walters had to ask Lonnie Chisenhall for a rental, bringing his glove count up to eight at the moment.

"I'm a super-duper utility guy," Walters quipped.

The 25-year-old Walters is young in years and Major League experience, this is his first Spring Training with Cleveland and he understands that he is in the mix for a bench job with the Tribe or a regular role with Triple-A Columbus. That combination has Walters willing to try anything Cleveland asks of him, even if that means playing some first base.

"I don't hit many singles and I don't walk much, so I don't know where that is," Walters joked about playing first. "Is that to the right of the pitcher? No, if that's something that they would want me to pick up to get my bat in the lineup more, that would be awesome. That's all I've ever wanted was constant at-bats."

Walters was in the lineup as Cleveland's third baseman for Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Reds and he is scheduled to play first in a "B" game against Cincinnati on Thursday. He has experience at second base and shortstop in the infield, along with both corner spots in the outfield.

Must C: Clutch

Manager Terry Francona loves having players who can offer that kind of versatility.

"We told him right out that nobody is telling him he's not going to be an everyday player in the Major Leagues," Francona said. "But, for right now, on our team, his best chance of competing for a place on our ballclub is to move around."

Last season, Walters hit .310/.361/.619 with 17 home runs, 44 extra-base hits and 56 RBIs in 67 games at the Triple-A level (between the Nationals and Indians). In 62 big league games, he hit only .181, but he posted a .441 slugging percentage and had seven homers in 88 at-bats with Cleveland. Down the stretch, Walters tried to play through a right intercostal injury, hindering his hitting ability.

"I was in a bad mindset," Walter said of trying to play through pain in September. "I was thinking about it. I didn't have the confidence I usually have. I was thinking about it at night. I wasn't sleeping. It was tearing me up. It's hard. Every hitter knows. You go up there and you look up and it's like, 'That's not me. That bubblegum card you see, that's not me.'"

Walters is feeling much more confident this spring.

"Every young guy's got a chip on his shoulder," he said. "It's a new organization. I want to make a good name and I want to go out there and have people like, 'I like the way he plays.'"

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.