CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Justin Masterson developed into a leader within the Indians' rotation this past season, and an argument could be made that he is more than deserving of taking the mound on Opening Day come 2012.
Even after offseason shoulder surgery, Masterson might still earn that honor.
The Indians announced on Wednesday that Masterson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The operation was performed by Dr. Craig Morgan in Wilmington, Del. Masterson is expected to be recovered and without restrictions in time for the 2012 campaign.
"He had some discomfort at the end of the year," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "It just made sense to take care of it now."
Masterson, 26, has had issues with his left shoulder since before Cleveland acquired him as part of the July 31, 2009, trade that sent Victor Martinez to the Red Sox. The injury only became a problem for the pitcher down the stretch this past season.
Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA over 34 appearances in 2011, during which he struck out 158 and walked 65 over 216 innings. Over his final seven starts, however, he went 2-3 with a 5.23 ERA for the Tribe. Masterson had posted a 2.22 ERA in his previous 15 outings.
Antonetti noted that the surgery is unlikely to hinder Masterson's ability to have a relatively "normal" offseason and Spring Training routine, considering the issue deals with his non-throwing arm.
This winter, Masterson will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, after tying Josh Tomlin for the team lead in victories. As things currently stand, Masterson and Tomlin figure to join Ubaldo Jimenez and Fausto Carmona in the 2012 rotation. David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez are among those currently in the mix for the fifth-starter spot.