Cowgill showing flashes of old self

Cowgill showing flashes of old self

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians traded for Collin Cowgill over the offseason with a few things in mind. Cleveland liked his defensive potential at all three outfield positions, felt he could help against left-handed pitching and liked the speed he could offer on the basepaths.

Prior to Thursday's game against the Dodgers, Cowgill had shown little more than his defensive ability in his Cactus League audition for a spot on the Tribe's Opening Day roster. Finally, during a game in which he faced lefty ace Clayton Kershaw, Cowgill broke through with a pair of extra-base hits and showed his possible value to the Indians' outfield.

"What you want is to see guys kind of at their best, or close to it," manager Terry Francona said. "At least see what they can do, so then you can make your decisions. It was hard, because he was struggling so much. But, what he does -- the defensive player, the baserunner -- the things he can do are there.

"So, it's nice to see him swinging the bat, because you know he can."

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Heading into Friday's action, the 29-year-old Cowgill -- acquired in exchange for cash from the Angels on Dec. 2, 2015, -- was batting .132 (5-for-38) this spring. Two of those hits came on Thursday, when he contributed an RBI triple in the second inning off Kershaw before later leading off the fourth with a double to deep center field.

In the sixth, Cowgill drew a walk against righty Joe Blanton, stole second base, sprinted to third on a flyout to center by Rajai Davis and then scored on a wild pitch. Cowgill was happy to collect the two hits off Kershaw, who he faced plenty during his days with the Angels, but the outfielder was also pleased he could show what he can do on the bases.

Cowgill was having trouble doing that while mired in his offensive slump.

"That gets frustrating, because you feel like you have a lot to offer," Cowgill said. "I like to make things happen. When you're not getting on, you can't really show everything that you're capable of, not just to the coaches, but to your teammates, too. You want them to understand what kind of game you can play, your style of play."

The Indians know Cowgill can hit left-handers, considering he has a .271 average (.733 OPS) off southpaws in his career and batted .288 (.790 OPS) off lefties in 2014, which was his last full, healthy season. Last year, Cowgill was limited to 55 games and hit .188 overall while dealing with a right wrist issue.

Cowgill scores on wild pitch

Defensively, Cleveland also likes that Cowgill can handle all three outfield spots. If Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery in November) opens on the disabled list, having another player capable of backing up multiple spots could be helpful. Cowgill also provides a potential complementary option for left-handed hitters Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin.

"Being able to play all three positions really well is another thing that's very valuable," Francona said. "We're going to probably mix and match a little bit here in April, for sure. And we're still trying to work our way through it, but not giving up runs is important, too. We need to score, but we don't want to get sloppy on defense."

Cowgill said it helps his comfort level to know that the Indians are looking at more than a Spring Training batting average.

"I've been a fourth, fifth outfielder for a long time now," Cowgill said. "I know that role and I feel like I can excel in that role or whatever capacity they might need me in. It's nice to have a track record of some success in the big leagues. It does give you a little comfort knowing you've got that cushion of what you've done in the past.

"And a game like [Thursday] night, it's helpful when they can kind of see everything that you can bring to the table."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for 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.