Just two days into organized workouts and the cardio conditioning of the Cleveland Indians' pitchers and catchers was put to the test.
The Tribe held their annual endurance sprints at the end of practice on Wednesday afternoon. The winner of the cardio challenge was determined by the last man standing and entailed a series of laps for all pitchers and catchers on the 40-man roster and non-roster invite list. With many of the top hurlers bowing out early, it was RHP Dylan Baker that led the pack with a whopping 70 laps. Traditionally, the winner of the race only completes around 40 laps.
Also finding its way to the top of the news feed were reports detailing the statuses of Michael Brantley, Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana.
- It has been 679 days since Baker last toed the rubber in a minor league baseball game (Apr. 9, 2015: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 9 K). Since then, the 24-year-old has retained his position on the 40-man roster, but battled the injury bug with a broken ankle in 2014, Tommy John surgery in 2015 and more lingering elbow issues in 2016. His perseverance through rehab and resilient character yielded an early impression on the Indians coaching staff thanks to his victory in the endurance test ahead of runner-up Yan Gomes. Baker is in the mix for a spot in the 2017 bullpen.
- Michael Brantley will reportedly sit out the Tribe's first Cactus League game as he gradually works his way through his hitting progression and rehabilitation process. For the time being, Brantley is expected to be ready for opening day, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports.
- Recovering from a medial meniscus tear in his left knee, Austin Jackson is slightly behind schedule compared to the other positional players this spring. Similar to Brantley, the 30-year-old veteran is likely to take a cautious approach at big league camp to evade any further injuries.
- After splitting time between left field and third base in 2016, Jose Ramirez will be the everyday third baseman, according to manager Terry Francona. There are no plans to send Ramirez back to the outfield, but he could be given an opportunity at shortstop if his versatility is needed during the season.
- Francona has yet to shed light on the everyday first baseman competition between Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana. The Indians' skipper will chat with both players in February and March before making a final decision.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.