GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After two or three pitches Thursday, Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco knew his mechanics were off. The right-hander determined that his lead arm was slipping lower in his delivery, so he quickly made the adjustment and went to work.
It sounds like a simple process, but it was a big moment for Carrasco.
"The problem in the past is I never thought about making an adjustment," Carrasco said Friday morning. "I just threw the ball. But yesterday, I felt a big difference. That's the kind of mentality that I've worked on in the offseason."
The 26-year-old Carrasco is a leading candidate for the lone vacancy in Cleveland's rotation this spring. He is up against rostered pitchers Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer, as well as non-roster veterans Aaron Harang and Shaun Marcum. Being out of Minor League options, though, Carrasco is a near lock to begin the season on the Opening Day roster in some capacity.
Carrasco posted a 6.75 ERA in 15 games for Cleveland last season, but had a 3.14 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings with Triple-A Columbus. Over his career with the Indians, he has gone 11-19 with a 5.29 ERA in 238 1/3 innings and missed all of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Carrasco had a stint in the bullpen last year, turning in a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.
Right now, winning a rotation job is Carrasco's focus and he is hoping his mechanical tweaks over the winter will help his cause. At the suggestion of pitching coach Mickey Callaway, Carrasco worked on raising his lead arm higher in his throwing motion with the idea of creating more deception and pounding the lower half of the strike zone more consistently.
Carrasco logged only two innings in Thursday's 12-3 win over Cincinnati, but manager Terry Francona liked what he saw. The right-hander fired off 27 pitches -- mixing in his fastball, changeup, slider and curveball -- and ended with two strikeouts, two groundouts and two flyouts.
"He looks comfortable in it and I do think it's going to help," Francona said. "I do think there will be some deception there. His stuff is really good. Pitching is still locating and working ahead and things like that, but that should help him."
Francona was also pleased with how Carrasco made an adjustment on the fly in the first inning.
"It was very encouraging," Francona said. "To be hoenst with you, we're looking every day for reasons to be encouraged about everybody. I think that's part of our responsibility. He comes in and throws ball one, ball two, and they're up on the arm side. And then he reels it back in. Heck yeah it was [encouraging]."
Naquin finds more power with change of stance
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Tyler Naquin worked hard on implementing a change to his stance last season, with the idea of generating more power in his swing. The Indians outfield prospect put the alterations on display during Thursday's 12-3 victory over the Reds.
In the seventh inning, Naquin launched a two-run home run, giving a glimpse of his power potential. Last season, the outfielder concentrated on that aspect of his offense by making an adjustment to how he used his legs in his swing.
"I feel like I have a better chance to drive the baseball better," Naquin said Friday morning. "It showed in the [Arizona] Fall League and a little bit towards the end of last year. I'll just carry it over and keep sticking with it. 'Power hitter' is not even in my range. That's not my game. But I can hit the ball out to any part of the field on the right pitch.
"It'll give me a better chance to hit more home runs, but my job is to get on base, hit doubles, drive guys in whenever they're on and just square the ball up. Let the game dictate what the at-bat holds for you."
In 126 games last season, the 22-year-old Naquin turned in a .269/.334/.405 slash line between Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Akron. He piled up 15 stolen bases, 46 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 78 runs along the way. After hitting no homers in 137 at-bats with Class A (short-season) Mahoning Valley in 2012, Naquin launched 10 in 528 at-bats in '13.
Cleveland selected Naquin with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
This marks Naquin's first Spring Training in big league camp with the Indians.
"He's a good, young player," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We just don't know how good he's going to be. His career is in front of him and it's going to be fun to see what he turns into. He's a really good outfielder with a good, strong throwing arm. We don't know what he's going to be as a hitter, but it'll be fun to watch him grow."
Moncrief tastes fame after photo of 'kitchen' catch
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Teammates began to gather behind the group of reporters that surrounded Indians prospect Carlos Moncrief on Friday morning. There was quiet laughter as the young outfielder discussed the photograph that put him in the national picture this week.
"Ever since that photo, you've become a big deal," Minor League catcher Tony Wolters teased.
It happened during Wednesday's 8-3 Cactus League loss to the Reds. In the seventh inning, Moncrief made an impressive running catch in right field to rob Cincinnati's Kristopher Negron of an extra-base hit. The photographers in the camera well down the third-base line snapped away, unknowingly capturing a unusual image.
The photos -- one by Chuck Crow of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and another by Paul Sancya of the Associated Press -- show Moncrief making the catch, but he appears to be inside an immaculate kitchen. Only the very bottom of the pictures (where the dirt of the warning track can be spotted) reveal that this was not some Internet meme, but an illusion created by an advertisement on the outfield wall.
Moncrief, who hit .284 with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs in 129 games for Double-A Akron last year, was confused when he first saw one of the photographs.
"I saw it the day I made the catch," Moncrief said. "I went on the Internet, because I wanted to see if there was a video. Everybody was telling me it was good. I wanted to see it and I saw the picture. I was like, 'I'm in a kitchen?' I thought somebody photoshopped it or something like that.
"And then when I came to the field [Thursday], I saw the advertisement behind me. It was smaller, though, in person. It looked big on the picture. It's a nice picture. I liked it."
Asked if he could cook, Moncrief laughed.
"I cook a good grilled cheese," Moncrief said with a grin. "Real good grilled cheese."
Hitters be warned: Don't come into Moncrief's kitchen.
"I like that," Moncrief said. "I might have to get a tattoo that says that."
Quote to note
"My wife said it was a good catch. Any time she says something good I did, I know it was really good. She doesn't really comment on baseball. She wants me to love her before the game."
-- Indians outfield prospect Carlos Moncrief, on his impressive grab in Wednesday's game
• Cleveland's bullpen currently projects to include two left-handers: Marc Rzepczynski and Josh Outman. Francona said that carrying at least two lefties -- something the Tribe did for much of last season -- is an ideal alignment for the relief corps.
"Having a second lefty helps you not beat up the first lefty," Francona said. "When you have one left-hander, it's easy to say, 'Hey, just pitch him when it's important.' Well, how often does that work? And you don't know when it's going to always be important. You can't just bring a guy in the game. He's got to warm up. So having that second lefty [helps]."
• Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor played a handful of big league spring games last season, but the shortstop is officially in camp with Cleveland for the first time this year. Francona said Lindor (sidelined with a back injury in August) looks as if he has put on some muscle since he last saw him.
"He's a little bit bigger, stronger," Francona said. "I don't think he quite has his explosiveness yet that he will, but again, he was down for a while with that back [injury]. I think you'll see him be a little more explosive as he gets into playing again."
• For the second year in a row, Cleveland is posting Spring Training leaderboards for first-pitch strikes and 1-1 strikes by Tribe pitchers. Callaway came up with the idea last spring and Francona feels it helps emphasize the importance of getting ahead in the count.
• Right-hander Frank Herrmann, who underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training last year, has been feeling good and bouncing back well from mound workouts this preseason. The reliever is scheduled to throw a simulated game Sunday (it was originally slated for Monday).
• Nick Swisher wandered around the clubhouse Friday morning with a pile of red T-shirts slung over his shoulder. The first baseman was giving each of his teammates one of the shirts, which have "Unfinished Business" printed across the chest.