Francona on Santana, Chisenhall sharing time at third

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Carlos Santana showed the Indians enough this spring to convince the club that he could serve as their third baseman this season. Cleveland also felt Lonnie Chisenhall played well enough in the preseason to warrant a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Indians manager Terry Francona's task now is figuring out a way to handle the playing time at the hot corner.

"Carlos is going to play third," Francona said Tuesday. "To be honest with you, I don't have a crystal ball. I'm not sure you really need to have one. Things happen. I think, at the beginning of Spring Training, I said I thought we could be the best team with Carlos and Lonnie. I'm not exactly sure how that's going to play itself out. I don't know if anybody really is [sure].

"I'd rather not commit to something [that could change]. I think Carlos has done an outstanding job of not only showing us that he can play third, but having the ability to catch a Major League ballgame at the same time. I think that's a phenomenal skill-set."

Santana, who serves as Cleveland's cleanup hitter, will get regular at-bats at third base, while also working as the team's primary backup catcher to Yan Gomes. That means that Chisenhall might see some at-bats as a designated hitter early this season, if he is not at third. Francona could also use the left-handed-hitting third baseman off the bench as a pinch hitter.

Chisenhall told Francona that he is willing to do anything the team asks of him.

"It's up in the air," Chisenhall said of his role. "They told me whatever they ask me to do, be ready. Whether that's pinch-run, play defense, start, DH, play left field, right field, whatever they ask me to do. It's one of those situations that, when I get in there, make the most of my opportunities."

Chisenhall said he did his best this spring not to worry about Santana's transition from catching to third base.

"I took away all the outside factors that I couldn't control," Chisenhall said. "It's just a better way to look at it. You get your work in and you let the game take care of itself. I said all along, I wasn't competing with Carlos. I was competing with myself and trying to get better as a player."

All Chisenhall needs to do is look to last season, when role players such as Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles earned regular at-bats, to see that Francona will find opportune situations to work him into the lineup.

"He definitely moved the pieces around last year to make it work," Chisenhall said. "He's going to put you in a situation to succeed. He knows what it takes to have a winning team. He knows how to do that. I'll just wait for my name to be called."

Rib injury forces Giambi to DL to begin season

Francona discusses Giambi's rib injury

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona has never been shy about his affinity for veteran Jason Giambi. The way things are shaping up, it appears as though Giambi will once again play a role on Cleveland's bench this season.

On Tuesday, the Indians announced that the 43-year-old will begin the regular season on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Friday). The designated hitter is currently working through a rehab program after suffering a fractured rib in his right side earlier this spring.

"It's great. It feels really good," Giambi said. "I'm excited about where I'm at, to be honest with you. I thought it was going to be a little sore, because the doctors I talked to said it was going to be like a deep bruise after a while once you get the trauma out. But I feel really good."

Giambi, who will miss at least the first four games of the regular season, was struck on the right side by a pitch from Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson on March 7. On Monday, Giambi resumed hitting off a tee and doing soft-toss drills to test his side. He will travel with the Indians when they break camp in preparation for the March 31 opener in Oakland.

Considering how he has felt in recent days, Giambi does not feel he will need to miss too much time in April.

"They said now the timetable is really good," said Giambi, who is entering his 20th season in the Majors. "It's just how you get it going now. The next big test will be batting practice and then, of course, the hardest thing will be catching up to velocity, timing and how that feels."

Giambi hit .183 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 71 games as a part-time pinch-hitter and DH last season for the Indians. Within that overall showing, Giambi launched three pinch-hit homers and posted a .271 average with runners in scoring position and a 1.181 OPS in ninth-inning at-bats.

Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring) will join Giambi on the 15-day DL to start the season. With them out of the immediate picture, Cleveland plans on carrying a reserve group consisting of third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder Nyjer Morgan and utility men Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn and Elliot Johnson.

Cleveland has yet to make a decision on its final rotation spot (down to Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco) or its last two bullpen jobs (Scott Atchison, Blake Wood, Tomlin and Carrasco are candidates). Francona indicated that those decisions were likely to be announced Wednesday at the earliest.

"I think there's a way to do it," Francona said. "I think we do want to meet and talk and then, when we come to the last couple [decisions], we want to definitely talk to the players. That's the most important thing. There's probably a proper time to do that."

Quote to note

"When Kip hit that home run, he came in and he goes, 'OK, let's start.' I get it. You fight so hard as a hitter to get that feeling and you want to keep it."

-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Jason Kipnis' homer during Monday's win over the Reds

Smoke signals

• Francona has not made a decision on which player will serve as the temporary leadoff man while Bourne (left hamstring) is on the disabled list. Francona did note on Tuesday that he really values on-base percentage near the top of in the order.

"That's important," Francona said. "I think we value on-base percentage up in the order as opposed to speed. Having both is great. If you had to have one or the other, I think I would take the on-base."

• Indians outfielder David Murphy headed to the Minor League side Tuesday to hit "as much as he wants," according to Francona. Through 14 Cactus League games this spring, Murphy has hit just .163 (7-for-43) for the Tribe. Francona is not overly concerned with the preseason slump.

"He'll probably be the guy that's hot coming out [of the gate]," Francona said. "We're trying to get him some more at-bats, and he's really diligent in that area. I just know that the first day, second day into the season, Spring Training is out the window."

• Francona started Michael Brantley in eight different lineup positions last season, taking advantage of the left fielder's high contact rate and willingness to hit anywhere in the order. The manager is not sure if he will use the same approach with Brantley this season.

"I don't know," Francona said. "I've kind of liked where he's hit in the lineup this spring. He's hit fifth. Brantley can hit anywhere, because he's a good hitter. And he's going to make your lineup look better wherever he hits. The one thing, when he moves around, we never ask him to hit different."

• Indians right-hander Danny Salazar, who projects to open the season in the fifth slot of the rotation, logged six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in a Triple-A game Monday. Tribe closer John Axford threw 21 pitches and struck out the side in one inning of work.