Allen, Shaw can expect more spring innings

Oft-used relievers want to avoid slow starts to regular season

Allen, Shaw can expect more spring innings

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Given the high volume of relief appearances and innings that closer Cody Allen and setup man Bryan Shaw have taken on for the Indians, manager Terry Francona has tried to be mindful of their Spring Training workloads. Last year, Cleveland took a very conservative approach to the relievers' preseason program.

Francona said things will be a little different this spring. After discussing things with Allen and Shaw, the Indians manager feels they can be smart about their preparation without being slowed down by the team. Allen in particular felt that the way he was used last spring contributed to his slow start once the season began.

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"It's our fault," Francona said. "We talked to him a bunch about slowing down at the beginning and, mentally, I don't think he was quite where he wanted to be when the season started. And that's our fault -- my fault. He's now pitched three [full] years in the Major Leagues with pretty heavy use, and he's shown that he can handle it. He's in great shape, so we just said, 'Hey, help us get you ready.'

"It's hard for him to dial back the intensity and still feel like he's getting something out of it, which I understand. We just told him, we said, 'Hey, we'll listen to you a lot.'"

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Last spring, Allen logged seven Cactus League innings, which was not too far from how he had been handled in 2014 (seven innings) or '13 (8 1/3 innings). The difference last year was that the Indians closely monitored Allen's work between Cactus League games and had him log some innings in low-stress, simulated environments. Cleveland took the same approach with Shaw a year ago, too.

Allen began the year with an 11.57 ERA in his first eight outings, and Shaw turned in a 5.06 ERA in his first 10 appearances. After those early hiccups, Allen (2.02 ERA in his next 62 games) and Shaw (2.76 in his next 64 games) settled in and produced more typical numbers.

Over the 2013-15 seasons, Shaw and Allen ranked first and second, respectively, in the Majors with 224 and 223 appearances. In terms of relief innings, Shaw ranked third (214 1/3) and Allen seventh (209 1/3) in the Majors during that same time period. Given how much they have been used, Francona has tried to guard against asking the pitchers to take on too much, too early.

Francona said talking things over with the pitchers, and seeing the kind of shape they reported to camp in this spring, has helped ease some of his concerns.

"Shaw's in very good shape," Francona said. "This is probably the best we've seen him. I told him I was thrilled, because he has pitched a lot and I worry, because I care about him and I want him to pitch for as long as he wants. The load he's shouldered, to see him in shape like this really makes me happy.

"And the guys that see him throwing say he's throwing the ball really well, so I'm really happy about that."

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