Notes: Dubois making spring interesting

Notes: Dubois making spring interesting

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Coming into Spring Training camp, it was considered a given that veteran Todd Hollandsworth, despite his non-roster status, would have the Indians' fourth outfield job locked up.

Jason Dubois wants to change that.

Through seven games played and 18 at-bats, Dubois is batting .389 with a home run, one RBI and five runs scored.

Through five games and 14 at-bats, Hollandsworth is batting .143 with a home run, four RBIs and two runs scored.

While the competition might not be electric, it's at least remotely intriguing in a camp of few question marks.

"Obviously, Hollandsworth has the leg up, because he has 10 years of experience and because he's left-handed," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "But it's been great to see Dubois doing what he's been doing. It's more in line with what we expected."

What Dubois has continued to do, unfortunately, is strike out. He's whiffed seven times, walking twice. That's not the most encouraging sign from a guy who's struck out 81 times in 210 Major League at-bats.

Dubois, who was acquired in last July's trade that sent Jody Gerut to the Cubs, is trying to avoid his sporadic tendencies at the plate.

He knows the outfield is crowded in the Indians organization, what with Hollandsworth joining a mix that includes prospects Franklin Gutierrez and Brad Snyder, among others. But if he can shore up his plate performance, Dubois believes he's right in the thick of things.

"It's good competition," he said. "That's what makes the game great is you have to beat out these guys to make this team. They brought in Hollandsworth and they have a lot of young prospects you read about every week in the newspaper. They keep you going."

First cut isn't deep: The Indians eased up that crowded outfield by sending Ben Francisco and Trevor Crowe down to Minor League camp on Thursday morning.

Neither player had a chance of breaking camp with the club, and Crowe, entering his first full professional season, doesn't figure into the Tribe's '06 plans at all.

The Indians drafted Crowe in the first round of last June's First-Year Player Draft and have played him in center field, mostly. But this fall, during the team's instructional league, they'll renew the process of grooming him as a second baseman.

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Shapiro said he was impressed with what he saw from Crowe in Grapefruit League play, during which he went 3-for-8 at the plate.

"His energy, his effort and his ability were all evident," Shapiro said of Crowe, who will begin the year at Class A Kinston. "He's got athleticism, he's got the ability to hit. He still has some big transitions ahead of him. In his look up here, his impression was definitely a positive one."

Francisco has a chance to join the Indians later this season as a utility outfielder. He struck out in his lone exhibition at-bat and will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

More cuts are expected after the last split-squad games on March 14.

"We're gradually moving toward our guys who are either going to impact this team when we break out of here or our first line of defense depth guys," Shapiro said. "Those are going to be the guys who get the bulk of the playing time. The next two cuts are going to be about getting camp down to those two types of guys."

Calm the masses: Of course, Shapiro knows about hot prospect Andy Marte's big 4-for-4 day in Dunedin on Wednesday.

But that doesn't change the fact that Marte, the heir apparent for third baseman Aaron Boone, will begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo.

"There's nothing he can do to win a spot," Shapiro said. "I'm not going to make that kind of decision off Spring Training. His talent is obvious. Our goal here is to make him feel comfortable. My hope is he has those kinds of games six to eight weeks from now."

A step closer to closer: Teams never quite know for certain if a young prospect will emerge as a future closer, because they don't always know how the kid will handle a high-pressure situation in the ninth inning.

So chalk the following up as an unintended benefit of the World Baseball Classic.

Indians 24-year-old right-hander Fernando Cabrera, who figures to be counted on in the bullpen this season, is the closer for his native Puerto Rico, and he earned the save by pitching a scoreless ninth in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Panama.

"We couldn't simulate that type of environment," Shapiro said. "It was a unique evaluation opportunity that he would not have gotten here. It's as close to a Major League save as you can get."

Down on the farm: The first full workout for Minor Leaguers was held Thursday morning. ... Farm director John Farrell will honor the 2005 Eastern League champion Akron Aeros before Sunday's Grapefruit League game against the Yankees. The members of the club will receive their rings.

On deck: The Indians remain home at Chain of Lakes Park to take on the Braves at 1:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Right-hander Jake Westbrook will get the start against right-hander John Smoltz, and Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, Scott Sauerbeck, Andrew Brown, Brian Slocum and Ed Mujica are all expected to throw for the Tribe.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.