"We've gone a few months since having another team on the field," Indians setup man Cody Allen said. "I'm looking forward to playing somebody in a different uniform and just competing every day. I feel like that's one of the most important things of Spring Training, is getting used to competing every single day again."
That step in the spring process arrives on Wednesday, when the Indians will serve as the home team in a 3:05 p.m. ET Cactus League tilt, live on MLB.TV, against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark, which is shared by both clubs. It will be the first look this year at two of baseball's four Wild Card winners from last season.
For the Indians, right-hander Trevor Bauer is scheduled to log one inning as the starter, followed by veteran Aaron Harang and an assortment of relievers. Bauer and Harang are two of the five candidates -- Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Shaun Marcum are the others -- for the lone vacancy at the back end of Cleveland's rotation.
Alfredo Simon is scheduled to start for Cincinnati.
When games begin, all the work done in practice can be tested.
"It's good," Harang said. "Once games get going, it breaks up the monotony of all the reps and stuff you do before."
Cleveland's first starting lineup of 2014 will feature center fielder Nyjer Morgan, followed by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, left fielder Ryan Raburn, catcher Yan Gomes, right fielder Jeff Francoeur, first baseman David Cooper and designated hitter David Adams.
With a handful of the Tribe's regulars out of the lineup -- Nick Swisher will debut within the next week and Michael Bourn is scheduled to play in Thursday's game -- manager Terry Francona said it is a good chance to begin looking at some of the bench candidates. Morgan, Francoeur, Cooper and Adams all fit within that cast of players vying for jobs this spring.
"The first week to 10 days, especially the veterans, they're going to get their legs under them," Francona said. "That's just the way it is. So you try to balance evaluating guys and having them get ready. I think the best thing we can do as a staff is try to see our guys at their best, whenever that is."
Cleveland's competitions this spring include one or two bench jobs, two or three relief roles, one rotation spot and third base. Chisenhall will get the nod at the hot corner for the opener, but the Indians are also taking a close look at Carlos Santana (the No. 2 catcher) as a possible option for third base.
Wednesday's spring opener is the first of three straight games against the Reds, whose probable starters for Thursday and Friday are Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, respectively. Cleveland will counter with Justin Masterson on Thursday and Josh Tomlin on Friday. New Indians closer John Axford is also penciled in to appear in Friday's contest.
The games on Wednesday and Thursday will be broadcast on MLB.TV and SportsTime Ohio in Cleveland.
"It'll be fun," Francona said of starting spring games. "It's another step in the progression, and the timing is normally just about perfect. The guys have done a really good job going through the drills. Now it's time to get over and face live competition. It's another good step."
In all, Cleveland is scheduled to play 30 Cactus League games leading up to a pair of exhibition games against the Padres on March 28-29 at the University of San Diego. Following those tune-up games, the Indians will head north in California for Opening Day against the A's on March 31 in Oakland.
The Tribe is looking forward to getting to work on building off last year's 92-win season, which ended with a loss to the Rays in the American League Wild Card Game.
"I think we've got a lot of good pieces in place to complement what we already had here," Allen said. "We brought in some guys. We lost a few guys, too, that might hurt a little bit, but I feel like the guys we brought in can really help us take the next step."
Kipnis added that he is eager to start the spring slate.
"When you get that itch in the offseason, it's for the game environment," Kipnis said. "I like having an umpire behind me and a defense out there, so I'm excited to get back into games. That being said, you keep in mind that it's Spring Training. The first couple games are made for errors and working on stuff.
"I don't expect to make every play and I don't expect to be firing on all cylinders coming out of the gate. There's a lot of time before the season before I need to be full-go."