GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When Indians manager Terry Francona reached out Brett Myers over the offseason, the pitcher had a message for his new skipper.
"He was like, 'Hey, I just want you to know I don't like you coming out to get the ball,'" Francona recalled with a chuckle. "I was like, 'I don't really like coming out to get it.' That can be very helpful right in the middle of that rotation, a guy like that."
Myers is considered a competitor in every sense of the word. Indians third-base coach Brad Mills saw it first-hand in Houston, where he was the manager from 2010 through August of last season. Myers worked both as a starter and as a reliever for Mills.
Mills believes the pitcher is most valuable as a starter.
"I think he's better in the rotation," Mills said. "Any time you can get a guy that's going to compete like Brett's going to compete, and give you the amount of innings that he's going to give a rotation, that's going to help save a bullpen a lot. That's been his history."
That is why Mills and Myers were both a bit surprised last spring, when Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow suggested moving the pitcher into the bullpen. Houston did not have a clear-cut closer, and Myers had experience with the job with the Phillies in 2007.
Even after going 21-22 with a 3.79 ERA over 439 2/3 innings between the 2010-11 seasons, during which Houston piled up 192 losses as a team, Myers was willing to make the move. The 32-year-old righty just wanted to do whatever the team felt was best.
"It's one of those things where they made a decision, and I'll do anything I can to help the team," Myers said. "They asked me to do it and I wasn't going to fight them over it. That's what their opinion was. I don't know why, because I threw 440 innings the past two seasons."
Mills also abided by the decision.
"We talked about it and went back and forth," said Mills, referring to his conversations with Luhnow. "Any time you have a guy like Brett, where you're going to take 200 innings out of your rotation, I was kind of hoping we'd find somebody else to close. I say that in a nice way. But Jeff wanted to do it.
"Plus, they wanted to build up Brett's value a little bit, I think. I think he thought that was the best way to do it."
The Astros traded Myers to the White Sox on July 21 last season in exchange for three players. Between Houston and Chicago, the right-hander went 3-8 with a 3.31 ERA and 19 saves over 70 relief appearances. This past winter, the Indians inked Myers to a one-year deal worth $7 million (plus an option for 2014), and are giving him a shot as a starter again.
In his career as a starter, Myers has gone 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA in 249 games. He has logged at least 190 innings in six of his seven full seasons as a member of a rotation.
On Wednesday, Myers gave up one run on two hits in three innings in a 5-1 Cactus League loss to the Mariners.
Mills is confident that Myers can handle the transition back to a starting role.
"There's no doubt," Mills said. "He has done it before, but you get in a situation where it's almost like it saved his arm last year. He's still got those innings in him that he didn't pitch last year."
Allen in 'midseason form' early in Spring Training
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cody Allen was in Cleveland's Minor League camp a year ago. This spring, following a rapid rise through the team's farm system, the young reliever is vying for a spot within the Indians' Opening Day bullpen.
Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed by Allen's early showing.
"I would say he's game ready right now," Francona said. "He obviously knows he's coming into camp with something to prove. He looks like he's in midseason form. We never tell a guy to back off, but it's obvious that he worked hard and he prepared for Spring Training, because his stuff is just electric right now."
In Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Mariners, the 24-year-old Allen breezed through the seventh inning for the Tribe. He struck out Casper Wells, allowed a single to Carlos Triunfel and then induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Alex Liddi.
As things stand, the only virtual locks for Cleveland's relief corps are closer Chris Perez and setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. Righty Matt Albers appears to have a solid shot at making the club, considering he is out of Minor League options. Other bullpen candidates include Bryan Shaw, Frank Herrmann, Matt Capps, Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, David Huff, Rich Hill and Allen.
Last season, Allen opened the year with high Class A Carolina, but quickly advanced through Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus en route to the big leagues. In 31 Minor League outings, the right-hander posted a 1.87 ERA with 53 strikeouts and nine walks in 43 1/3 innings.
Allen had a 3.72 ERA with 27 strikeouts, 15 walks and 29 innings logged in his 27 games with Cleveland down the stretch.
Francona said it takes a special player to climb three professional levels in one season.
"The good ones [can do that]," Francona said. "Guys that are kind of special and have the ability to not only have a good arm, but to understand the game so it's not speeding up. Things like that; all the things that when you talk to Cody, you kind of see."
Soto invited to camp for big league experience
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians did not bring Giovanni Soto to big league camp to throw him into the mix as a rotation candidate. Cleveland invited the pitching prospect to get a close look at his arm and to give him a taste of the big league experience.
As is the case with plenty of young players in the preseason, Soto has struggled out of the gates while trying to both prepare and impress.
"He's had two really tough games," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's just a case of I think we're not seeing the good in him yet in the games. We will. I think it's probably speeding up. I think he's trying to do too much. All those things. In the dugout, he looked so down [after his last outing]. That's just a young kid trying to do too much.
"It's amazing. You'll look up in July and he'll be wherever he's pitching and he'll be doing fine."
In two Cactus League appearances, the 21-year-old Soto has given up seven runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings of work. The lefty has no strikeouts, one home run allowed and four walks in his two brief outings.
Cleveland gave Soto the nod as its starter for the team's Cactus League opener on Friday, but did so mainly to help him prep for the World Baseball Classic. Soto is currently on Puerto Rico's roster and will play under manager Edwin Rodriguez, who also manages the Indians' Double-A Akron affiliate.
The Tribe acquired Soto from the Tigers on July 28, 2010 in exchange for shortstop Jhonny Peralta and cash. Last season, Soto went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 outings at Double-A. Over 121 1/3 innings, the lefty had 100 strikeouts against 49 walks.
"We really like him," Francona said. "The reason we let him start that [first] game is he's going to the WBC, and potentially he's going to start. We actually need to talk to Edwin about this, because [Soto] hasn't gotten through an inning yet, so we need to sit down and figure that out."
Quote to note
"The plan is that we want to push. We want to be aggressive and intelligent."
-- Indians manager Terry Francona, on the offense
• Indians closer Chris Perez and setup man Vinnie Pestano are scheduled to join Team USA on Sunday to begin training for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said he is confident that Team USA manager Joe Torre and Team USA pitching coach Greg Maddux will carefully monitor the relievers' workload.
"We're not concerned about them overusing our guys," Francona said. "They were very upfront about taking care of our guys."
• For their first appearances of the spring, starters Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez pitched back-to-back for the Indians in Monday's 14-10 win over the A's. Cleveland will stagger its outings from here on out. Masterson is scheduled to start for the Tribe against the White Sox on Friday, and Jimenez will likely get the nod against the Padres on Saturday.
• Reliever Joe Smith, who has been working his way back from a mild left abdominal strain this spring, is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice during Thursday's workout. Barring any setbacks, Smith will likely make his Cactus League debut next week.
• With a surplus of starting pitchers in camp with Cleveland this spring, the Indians are doing their best to divvy up the innings. On Thursday, starters Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and T.J. House are slated to throw simulated games rather than work in the Tribe's Cactus League contest.