Notes: No set number of long-term deals

Notes: Ticket sales, TV network offer flexibility

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Jhonny Peralta's locked in.

So are Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia and Travis Hafner.

Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee are rumored to be next.

This spate of long-term contracts over the past year begs the question: How are the Indians affording all of this, and is there a limit to the number of players they'll sign for the long haul?

Team president Paul Dolan addressed that issue during Friday's press conference announcing the Peralta deal.

"There's no artificial cutoff in the number of players we sign to multiyear deals," Dolan said. "As a situation presents itself, it stands on its own merit."

Dolan said increased attendance (the Indians have already reached their goal of 13,000 season tickets sold for the coming season) and the money the club's new TV network is expected to generate gives the Indians the financial flexibility to lock in the young core of players.

Peralta was given a guaranteed contract worth $13 million through 2010, Martinez will receive $15.5 million through 2009, Hafner signed for $7 million through 2007 and Sabathia is locked in for $24.75 million over the next three years.

So while the Indians' payroll has not increased through flashy free agent signings in recent offseasons, it is rising through internal commitments.

That's the same basic blueprint the Indians followed in building their World Series teams of the 1990s.

"We hope we have players to keep recommending [for long-term deals] to Paul," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "That will be a very good sign for the Indians."

Taken back: Don Mitchell, president of GAAMES, the company representing third base prospect Andy Marte, said he was surprised to hear Shapiro guarantee Marte won't be on the big-league club at the outset of the season.

Shapiro told reporters Thursday that Marte can't do anything this spring to earn himself a job with the Indians on Opening Day and that he will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

"Maybe he was just trying to take the pressure off Andy," Mitchell said. "But even if Andy's not going to start with the club, why say that in the first week of March? Why let him play with anything but positive things in his mind?"

Mitchell said his client is ready for the big leagues and has proven it with his strong Minor League numbers. Marte hit .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs at Triple-A Richmond in the Braves organization last season, and he made noise earlier this week with a 4-for-4 day against the Blue Jays.

"Somebody will let him play," Mitchell said. "Hopefully it will be the Indians."

spring training 2006
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Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

How about Howard?: The Indians threw non-roster invite Ben Howard into a couple emergency relief appearances early on, and he responded well.

Howard didn't allow a run in his first three outings, striking out three of the eight batters he faced over 2 2/3 innings.

"That's a good job by [farm director] John Farrell," Shapiro said. "One of John's jobs is to utilize our scouting information to find guys who can help us."

Howard, 27, spent 2005 at Triple-A Albuquerque in the Marlins organization and went 6-3 with a 4.63 ERA over 54 appearances.

"Last year was a breakout year for him in terms of command," Shapiro said. "Hopefully he can help us during the year at some point."

Shake it off: The Indians took on a few bruises in Friday's game against the Braves.

Brandon Phillips fouled a ball off his shin in the third inning and was taken out of the game.

"He beat up his shin pretty good," manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll take a look at where he's at [Saturday]."

Ryan Garko was also a little beat up after getting hit by two pitches from John Smoltz and Anthony Lerew. He stayed in the game, though.

Tribe tidbits: SportsTime Ohio, the Indians' new TV network, will debut with Sunday's airing of the Tribe's Grapefruit League home game against the Yankees. The game begins at 1:05 p.m. ET and is one of eight exhibition games that the network will broadcast this month. ... The Indians scored 62 runs in their first 10 Grapefruit games, tying them for the second-most number of runs in the AL this spring.

On deck: The Indians hit the road to St. Petersburg to take on the Devil Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday. Left-hander Cliff Lee will get the start opposite right-hander Doug Waechter. Also pitching for the Indians will be Matt Miller, Jason Davis and Rafael Perez.

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