Notes: Sorting out bottom of order

Notes: Sorting out the bottom of the order

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The ninth spot of the batting order, in Eric Wedge's mind, is not a place for spare parts.

This belief is aided, of course, by the fact that Wedge has the rare luxury of a leadoff man, in Grady Sizemore, who is as capable of driving in a run as he is in setting one up.

And so Wedge is putting extra attention this spring on the last two spots of his lineup, trying to decipher how best to set the table for Sizemore, who, in turn, sets the table for the likes of Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez.

The candidates for the Nos. 8 and 9 spots are second baseman Josh Barfield and third baseman Andy Marte. Barfield is speedy and hits for average; Marte will likely hit for a low average but has raw power. For Saturday's game against the Devil Rays, Wedge batted Barfield eighth and Marte ninth, but he's still trying to determine if that's the way it will shake out on Opening Day.

"You can't go wrong either way," Wedge said. "We need to keep our eyes open and our minds open as the season evolves, and see how they play off each other and how it plays out."

Wedge thinks Sizemore would benefit from having Barfield bat ahead of him, because he's more of a consistent threat to get on base than Marte.

Then again, Barfield could benefit from batting behind Casey Blake, who will likely bat fifth, David Dellucci, who will bat sixth, and Jhonny Peralta, who will bat seventh.

"There's an argument to having Josh up after some guys with a little more experience than him," Wedge said. "Josh is going to steal some bases for us and do different things with that."

Though he'll begin the year in the lower third of the order, Barfield will probably get some opportunities in the No. 2 spot.

"Josh is capable of hitting in that two-hole," Wedge said, "if we need him."

Carmona comes along: Fausto Carmona's status as the Tribe's sixth starter -- and more accurately, in the wake of the injury to Cliff Lee, the fifth starter -- was contingent on him coming to camp and proving his delivery issues of a season ago are in the rearview mirror.

As far as Wedge is concerned, Carmona is right where he needs to be. So it's probably safe to book him to begin the season in the big-league rotation.

"I'm really happy with the way he's been from start to start," Wedge said of Carmona. "A lot of it is him slowing the game down and not getting in a hurry. The consistency of that is the biggest difference [between this year and last]."

Carmona made his fourth start of the spring Saturday. He allowed a run on five hits over four innings and picked up the victory over the Rays.

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"I thought Fausto threw very well," Wedge said. "He kept the ball down, repeated his delivery and used all his pitches. He did a good job throwing his fastball to both halves of the plate."

Payroll schmayroll: Throughout his tenure as the manager of the Tribe, Wedge has been operating a club with a payroll in the bottom 25 percent of baseball.

But he doesn't view himself and his club as being at a competitive disadvantage.

"[Payroll] is not something I ever consider," he said. "I look at us. If we go out and play the way we're capable of, we can beat anybody. I don't ever want to use [payroll] as an excuse, because that's all it is."

Minor assistance: Now that the Minor League clubs have begun playing games, Wedge is going to take advantage of the extra opportunities to get his players some at-bats and innings pitched.

On Saturday, for example, Jeremy Sowers pitched five innings of Triple-A Buffalo's game against Toledo, in Lakeland, giving up no runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Kelly Shoppach caught him.

"I'm going to start doing that a little more," Wedge said.

Casting a spell: Blake is mighty proud to say he once finished second in a grade-school spelling bee.

But what kept him from the top?

"I missed on jeopardy," he said. "I had the o and the e mixed up."

Blake and Matt Miller were working on a crossword puzzle in the visitors' clubhouse at Progress Energy Park before Saturday's game, and they got in a jokingly heated debate as to the spelling of the word "wean." Miller insisted it is spelled w-e-i-n.

"That," Blake said, "is false."

Which is precisely the same thing Blake heard in grade school, when he offered up his spelling of jeopardy.

Tribe tidbits: Wedge said the decision on whether Ryan Garko is on the big-league club has not been made, but will be made before the last few days of the spring season. The decision on the utility infield job, on the other hand, will come down to the wire. "We have to let that play out." ... The hope is that Joe Inglett, who has been out of action since March 5 because of a left hamstring strain, will be ready to compete by Monday or Tuesday. But Inglett is considered to be out of the race for the utility job. ... Brian Slocum, who was hindered early in camp by a sore hamstring, made his third appearance of the spring Saturday, giving up two runs on four hits over three innings. "He's obviously a little further behind," Wedge said, "but he's catching up in a hurry."

On deck: Staff ace C.C. Sabathia will get the starting nod as the Indians take on the Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday at Chain of Lakes Park. Right-hander Derek Lowe will start for Los Angeles. Tom Mastny, Fernando Cabrera, Roberto Hernandez and Juan Lara will also be available 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.