GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians believe that Giovanny Urshela has the potential to develop into their everyday third baseman for years to come. That was the message conveyed to him after the club signed veteran Juan Uribe to handle the hot corner this season.
"G's been mature for his service time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He knows what we think of him. We didn't go sign anybody for four years or anything like that."
The Tribe added the 36-year-old Uribe on a one-year contract, making it clear that the team feels Urshela still has development left as a hitter. Barring something changing over the course of the next few weeks, that means Urshela will likely begin this season at Triple-A Columbus.
Sitting at his locker on Wednesday morning, Urshela said Francona and the Indians' brass did well in explaining the situation. Following an injury-marred showing last season, the young third baseman needs to work more on his offense before taking the reins in the big leagues again.
"They said, 'We need you to develop more with the hitting,'" Urshela said. "If I take a couple at-bats in the Minors, it could be good for me. Being consistent with my hitting, that's what I'm focused on right now. That's what I'm trying to do."
Urshela, 24, had a breakout showing in 2014, when he hit .280 with 18 homers, 36 doubles and 84 RBIs between Double-A Akron and Columbus. In the offseason prior to '15, Urshela injured his left knee in winter ball. During Spring Training, the third baseman was then sidelined with a back issue. A right shoulder injury cost him time with Cleveland later in the season, too.
In 81 games with the Indians, Urshela hit .225 with a .608 OPS last season.
"That was tough for me," said Urshela, who belted a home run in Wednesday's game against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz. "[With] my shoulder, back and knee, it was a tough year last year for me. This year, I'm 100 percent healthy. I feel fine now."
Over the winter, Urshela trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., helping him establish a solid winter routine and putting him back on the road to a full recovery from last year's health woes. Even so, the Indians felt they were better suited signing Uribe to keep third base warm until Urshela is deemed ready to return to the Majors.
"I'm sure there was some disappointment. I don't blame [Urshela]," Francona said. "But, when we talked to him, he seemed to fully understand it. And you watch how he goes through his day and everything, I think he's handled it pretty well."