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Masterson optimistic about contract negotiations

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have continued to work to find a middle ground in long-term contract negotiations with All-Star pitcher Justin Masterson. Following his first start of the spring Thursday, Masterson sounded more optimistic about the chances of signing on the dotted line.

Nothing is imminent, but progress has been made behind the scenes.

"I figure somehow, some way," Masterson said, "I'll end up still being here for a few more years."

Masterson, who would be eligible for free agency next winter, avoided arbitration with the Indians by signing a one-year, $9.76 million contract on Feb. 18. Throughout the negotiation process for that deal, Cleveland and Masterson's representative, Randy Rowley, engaged in talks on a multiyear deal. When those talks stalled, the sides concentrated on the one-year pact.

Both the Indians and Masterson made it known that they were open to picking up the long-term discussions throughout Spring Training. The talks resumed earlier this week and will likely continue this coming weekend and in the weeks ahead. Numbers were exchanged and the sides are doing what they can to find a deal that is deemed fair for both the team and the pitcher.

Masterson hardly sounded like his contract situation would be a distraction.

"You hire people to work for that," said Masterson, who went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings last season. "We have our understanding and in the end it all takes care of itself. I think I've been blessed with the ability to just go out and play the game. Everything else falls into place.

"There's nothing monumental yet, but yeah, we've talked," he added. "As we've talked, I imagine that if something gets done, it'd be before the season begins. That's kind of where we're at. We've got a few weeks."

In his first spring start, Masterson held the Reds off the scoreboard in one inning of work. The big sinkerballer stuck with fastballs and ended with two strikeouts and one hit allowed. Masterson noted that he would likely begin mixing in some sliders in his next start, which is scheduled for Saturday against the Mariners.

"In a live game, you get a little amped up early on," Masterson said. "That's always my battle -- getting a little amped up. I had to settle down a little bit and try to throw some four seamers and some sinkers."

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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