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Indians send nine to Minor Leagues

Indians send nine to Minor Leagues

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The axe fell hard at Chain of Lakes Park on Saturday morning. But like the vast majority of cuts that will be made in this camp, none of the nine moves made came as a surprise.

Right-hander Edward Mujica and catcher Wyatt Toregas were optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. Right-handers Rick Bauer, J.D. Martin and Jeff Stevens, catcher/infielder Chris Gimenez, infielders Jordan Brown and Beau Mills and outfielder Trevor Crowe -- all non-roster invitees -- were reassigned to Minor League camp.

With the split-squad games out of the way and starting pitchers ramping up their pitch counts, the Indians don't have a need for too many extra bodies. This round of cuts brought the number of players in camp down to 44.

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The Indians have only two position battles taking place. Left-handers Cliff Lee, Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, while right-handers Tom Mastny, Jorge Julio, Scott Elarton, Matt Ginter and Jeff Harris are in the hunt for the final spot in the bullpen. Lee and Mastny have the upper hand in those respective battles.

The 31-year-old Bauer, at one time, had been named a contender for the bullpen spot. He went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in six innings of work over five games.

"I loved the way he handled himself in the clubhouse," manager Eric Wedge said of Bauer. "He needs to be more aggressive on the plate, working ahead and staying ahead."

Stevens wasn't named as a bullpen contender, but his first callup to the Majors might not be far off. The Indians were impressed with his '07 season at Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron and his experience pitching for Team USA in the World Cup. He had a 3.38 ERA in 2 2/3 innings this spring.

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Mujica, who bounced back and forth between Buffalo and the bigs last season, had a rough camp. He put up an 11.81 ERA in 5 1/3 innings of work.

As for the position players, Brown and Crowe will be names to follow in Buffalo. Brown was the Eastern League MVP for Akron last season, and Crowe was the Tribe's No. 1 pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Wedge seemed impressed with Crowe, who hit .292 (7-for-24) with four RBIs.

"He has a lot of athleticism," Wedge said. "He's still learning to master the game of baseball. You could really tell he's matured, both on and off the field."

Toregas batted .375 (3-for-8) with three RBIs this spring. He could be considered as the Indians' third catcher this season, though Yamid Haad, who remains in camp, is another, more experienced option.

Mills, the Indians' No. 1 pick in last year's Draft, was in camp by virtue of a clause in his first pro contract. He impressed the club's higher-ups with the way he handled himself in the big league clubhouse, and he also belted a pair of home runs.

"A year ago at this time, he was halfway through his junior season in college," Wedge said. "He was not the least bit intimidated by this environment."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }