Indians building up McAllister as insurance

Indians building up McAllister as insurance

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The three main horses in the race for the fifth spot in the Indians' starting staff this spring are Josh Tomlin, Cody Anderson and TJ House. As a kind of rotation insurance policy, Cleveland also plans on stretching Zach McAllister out in the early stages of camp.

On Saturday, Indians manager Terry Francona noted that McAllister is still in the plans for Cleveland's Opening Day bullpen. The Tribe just feels that having an extra arm built up for multiple innings makes sense as a matter of protection as the team plans for the coming campaign.

"It makes sense, and he knows that," Francona said. "We told him that we're not telling him he can't start. Just, for where we are now, it looks like he's probably a better weapon in the bullpen. That can change."

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McAllister, 28, had a 3.00 ERA last season in 61 games, including a 2.49 ERA in 60 relief outings. The big right-hander has turned in a 2.54 ERA in 67 career relief appearances, striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings and limiting hitters to a .633 OPS in 78 innings. As a starter, McAllister has a 4.52 ERA in 66 outings, posting 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings with a .773 opponents' OPS in 354 1/3 innings.

"Out of the bullpen, you're seeing velocity that's ticking up," Francona said. "He's seeing the hitters one time and he's a weapon, as opposed to a guy who's maybe throwing too many pitches and working too hard."

Other items of note from Saturday:

• Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is out of Minor League options, spent a short amount of time in the bullpen late in the season last year due to some second-half struggles. Francona said there is no thought to putting Bauer in the bullpen right now. Bauer is a virtual lock for a rotation job with the Tribe. Said Francona: "We'd really like for Trevor to start."

• House missed the majority of last season while dealing with a left shoulder injury. Francona said that House is back at full strength and has no restrictions this spring. Francona: "He's doing really well. He had a really good winter. To his credit, there's no restrictions."

• The Indians signed right-hander Tommy Hunter knowing that his offseason core-muscle surgeries would keep him sidelined beyond Opening Day this year. On Saturday, Francona indicated that Hunter could be out of the mix until around mid-May for Cleveland.

• Former slugger Jason Giambi is expected to arrive to camp on Sunday to begin a stint as a guest instructor for the Indians. Francona said that Carlos Baerga, Mike Hargrove and Travis Hafner will also be in camp at various points as guest instructors this spring.

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.