GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Aaron Harang and Indians manager Terry Francona go way back. When the new Cleveland pitcher was coming up with Oakland more than a decade ago, Francona served as the bench coach for the A's.
Having a strong history with Francona can mean good things for making a roster, but the manager made it clear Sunday that adding Harang to the mix changes little. Francona said he and general manager Chris Antonetti simply felt signing the veteran was good for the Tribe's rotation depth.
"There's nothing to be read into his signing," Francona said, "besides the fact that Chris and I have gone back and forth all winter on the right amount of pitching. Nothing has changed from what we've said about Carlos [Carrasco] or Josh [Tomlin]. We're just trying to have depth. We were very honest with Aaron. He's going to get a chance to show what he can do."
Harang signed Saturday as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League contract and joins Carrasco, Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Shaun Marcum as the main candidates for the lone vacancy in the starting rotation. Carrasco, who is out of options, is considered the favorite for the job, though he and Tomlin could also be options for the Tribe's bullpen.
The 35-year-old Harang offers 12 years of big league experience and durability (he averaged 179 innings per year over the past 10 seasons). Last season, the big righty went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 26 games between the Mariners and Mets, but his strikeout and walk rates were the best they had been since 2009.
Harang cited an unfamiliarity with the American League, a handful of outings gone awry and a season filled with transactions as reasons behind his inconsistency. He spent Spring Training with the Dodgers before being traded twice in April (first by L.A. and then by Colorado) to land in Seattle. The Mariners released Harang at the end of August, and New York picked him up for September.
Harang said he was encouraged by his showing down the stretch with the Mets, who saw the right-hander post a 3.52 ERA with a .230 opponents' average in four starts in the final month.
"That was really big," said Harang, who added he is thrilled to join Cleveland. "Being a contending team was a big deal. And then I've known Francona since my rookie year. He was my bench coach. We've got a good relationship. We've talked back and forth and we talked a couple times this past week before things were going down, to kind of get a feel for the team and everything else.
"You've got to have extra guys in camp. I know I'm going to go out and do what I do, pitch how I can pitch and the rest will go from there."
Herrmann wants to compete in return from surgery
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Frank Herrmann can be excused for missing his spots with his fastball during the early portion of his latest mound workout. The Indians reliever was a little too amped over facing hitters for the first time in nearly a year.
"It felt great," Herrmann said Sunday. "I would say my first six or seven pitches were up in the zone, just from having that extra adrenaline. But then I was kind of able to lower my sights and get back in the groove. It felt great. It's competing again. Being able to compete for the first time in a year was awesome."
Herrmann faced a couple of hitters during a mound session Saturday and felt great one day after testing out his surgically repaired elbow. Last March, when the right-hander hoped to be vying for a spot in Cleveland's bullpen, he injured the joint and needed Tommy John surgery to fix the damage.
Almost one year later, Herrmann is once again hoping to work his way into the mix for the Tribe's bullpen.
"Until they tell me otherwise, that's my goal," Herrmann said. "Who knows? I understand the process. For me, I'm looking to have a career. I'd like to, ideally, pitch for six or seven more years. So I'm not going to blow it out for an arbitrary April 1 date, but I'd certainly like to be in the competition."
The current plan for the 29-year-old Herrmann -- a member of Cleveland's relief corps for parts of the 2010-12 seasons -- is to have extra days off between bullpen workouts. Barring any setbacks, the right-hander projects to make his Cactus League debut in early- to mid-March (likely around the one-year anniversary of his surgery).
"'Gradual' is the right word," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We have just tried to reiterate again and again with him that it has to be a process. He is doing great, but it has to be a build up to hitters, and a build up to a game. He needs a certain amount of bullpens, so he will be throwing in games a little later. He's probably stronger than anyone in camp, but there's a way to do it."
In his Major League career, Herrmann has posted a 4.26 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP in 95 games for the Indians, but he felt he took a major step forward in 2012. That year, the righty added a curveball to the mix, along with his fastball and split-change, and fashioned a 2.33 ERA with 14 strikeouts and four walks in 19 1/3 big league innings.
That progress made the injury last spring even more frustrating, but the silver lining was the timing of the operation.
"It was a tough decision," Herrmann said. "But with the timing of it, I wanted to give myself the best chance possible to be ready for this season. ... There's a process. The Indians have a done a tremendous job with me so far. It's amazing. This surgery is so down to a science now that there's a reason they do things the way they do things. I completely put it in their hands."
Santana ready to field ground balls with infielders
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Carlos Santana will take on a new look for the Indians during Monday's workout. Rather than head out to the practice fields wearing his catching gear, Santana will slip on his third baseman's glove and work at the hot corner.
With Yan Gomes taking over as the Tribe's starting catcher, Cleveland is working with Santana on a possible transition to third base this spring. Santana began the move over the offseason during winter ball in the Dominican Republic and will continue to test his skill at third base in the coming weeks.
For the past few days of camp, Santana has caught bullpen sessions and run through drills only with the other catchers.
"He's been going out early in the morning and taking ground balls," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "In fairness to him, and to his body, we wanted him to get back in familiarity with squatting and doing the drills and fundamentals, but now we'll let him go out and kind of exclusively for a while play the infield."
The Indians have not painted the situation as Santana being in competition with Lonnie Chisenhall at third base. Instead, Cleveland has indicated that it is simply trying to see if third base is another position Santana can add to his mix. The switch-hitting catcher can also serve as a part-time first baseman and designated hitter for the Indians.
Right now, Francona does not have a specific number of spring games in mind for Santana as a third baseman.
"I really don't," Francona said. "He's been told that he has to earn the playing time at third. If he's our best third baseman, we'll revisit this as we go."
• Francona insists he isn't fretting too much over his lineup this early in Spring Training. As for the second spot of the order, Francona said on-base percentage will be important. Last year, Nick Swisher (62 starts), Jason Kipnis (49) and Asdrubal Cabrera (32) spent the most time in the second slot.
"It's hard to answer," Francona said. "Obviously, we care about on-base skills. There were times last year where I think I probably got a little over-protective of running our lefties up there in a row. We don't want to make it easy for the opposing manager. But on-base ability is important in that spot. It'll shake itself out as the spring goes."
• Indians infielder Jose Ramirez underwent surgery on his left thumb in December and is "a little behind" the rest of the position players, according to Francona. The manager estimated Ramirez would likely make his Cactus League game debut in the March 10-15 range.
• Veteran Jason Giambi and center fielder Michael Bourn were among the new faces on hand at Cleveland's complex Sunday, when position players went through physicals. All position players have reported for the Indians and the team will run through its first full-squad workout Monday.
• Indians Minor League reliever Bryan Price, who tweaked his right hamstring during drills earlier this week, was back on the field for Sunday's workout. The right-hander had a 2.04 ERA with 92 strikeouts and 16 walks in 75 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season in Cleveland's system.
Quote to note
"At this time last year -- we were laughing in a meeting the other day -- we were trying to figure out if he was going to go to the [World Baseball Classic], and if he was going to play first and third and catch. A year later, he's our everyday catcher and, in my opinion, one of the best."
-- Francona, on catcher Gomes