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Indians' bullpen starting to come into focus

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona expected to have a few tough conversations with players before camp broke this spring. That comes with the territory of roster cuts, and can be more prevalent when a surplus of talent exists.

From the early days of Spring Training, Francona said he anticipated some hard meetings with members of Cleveland's bullpen. That was true on Thursday morning, when the manager informed left-hander Scott Barnes that he was being optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

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"Barnesy, he took it a little bit hard," Francona said. "It's not necessarily the best day. Guys don't process things a lot. All they hear is they're going down. So everybody is a little different. With certain guys, you'll follow up maybe a day later, two days later, three days later, because you want them to understand the message.

"Barnesy is a good example. We love this kid. Right now, we have a couple guys ahead of him. That doesn't mean he's not going to help us this year, and he's going to be really good. But, I don't think today he's probably ready to hear that, and I understand that."

Barnes, 25, posted a 2.84 ERA this spring in six Cactus League appearances, during which he had seven strikeouts and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. Last season with Cleveland, the lefty had a 4.26 ERA with 16 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 games and 19 innings in the big leagues.

With Barnes out of the mix, Cleveland's bullpen race is down to lefties David Huff (out of options) and Nick Hagadone and right-hander Bryan Shaw. There are either one or two jobs available, depending on whether the Indians open the season with a seven- or eight-man bullpen. Cleveland is considering the latter scenario due to playing 13 straight games with no off-days to begin the year.

As things currently stand, the Tribe's bullpen projects to include closer Chris Perez (as long as he avoids any setbacks in his recovery from a right shoulder strain), setup men Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith, right-handers Cody Allen and Matt Albers, and lefty Rich Hill.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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