Tim Hulett, Marcus Greene and Saquan Johnson have experienced the first day of Spokane Indians minicamp before.
Indians manager Hulett would happily repeat the process for several years, but he’d be just as happy if Greene and Johnson found themselves in another place next June.
“I tell them, ‘I’m tired of seeing them, let’s go. Let’s get to work and get out of here,’” Hulett joked Tuesday after 24 players ran through the first practice of 2014 at Avista Stadium. “They don’t want to be here, but the system is full of players and I tell them each year, ‘You have to beat somebody out. You have to play well.’”
Hulett, entering his record eighth season as Indians manager, welcomed back catcher Greene, pitcher Luis Pollorena, and outfielders Johnson, Jamie Jarmon and Eduard Pinto.
Another returner, shortstop Alberto Triunfel, is expected in camp soon. His arrival will be a relief because the Indians’ first-day roster was limited to three infielders.
Johnson, one of five outfielders in camp, has returned to Spokane for a third consecutive season.
“I’m just going to treat it like I’ve never been here and try to do my best to help the team win, on and off the field,” Johnson said.
Johnson was drafted in 2011 and has struggled to find his hitting stroke in Spokane, batting .161 in 87 at-bats in 2012 and .113 in 71 at-bats last season.
“I have potential but sometimes it doesn’t show, but lately I’ve been consistent,” Johnson said. “That’s what I was working on through the offseason, just trying to stay consistent. Now I just have to bring it here.”
Greene hit .227 in 58 games for Spokane last year, his first professional season. The 2013 draftee is one of three catchers on the current roster.
“It’s not my first time here, so I know what to expect and what the environment is,” Greene said. “I think I adjusted to it pretty well last year. … You can … always improve on anything.”
Eight players who were selected by the parent-club Texas Rangers in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft were in camp for the first day. The highest-drafted players on the current roster are second baseman Jose Trevino, Oral Roberts, sixth round; outfielder Doug Votolato, Central Arkansas, ninth round; and catcher Seth Spivey, Abilene (Texas) Christian, 10th round.
“I think you’re going to see a gritty bunch of guys,” Hulett said. “The baseball terminology for them is grinders. They’ll come here every day grinding it out and getting it done. Those are good teams. Those are fun teams to manage and coach.”
Hulett said 2011 Indians outfielder Zach Cone will arrive soon for a rehab assignment. Cone hit .262 with 17 homers for low-A Hickory (N.C.) in 2012 and was injured while playing for high-A Myrtle Beach (S.C).
The active rosters for Class A short-season leagues such as the Northwest League have expanded from 30 to 35 this season.
Hulett’s Indians finished 38-38 last season, making a run for the second-half North Division title that fell just short on the next-to-last day of the season.
“The games got close at the end of the year and we were pushing for the playoffs,” Greene said. “We came up short, but everybody just started to push at the same time and work toward the same goal.”
Hulett is in line to manage his 543rd game with Spokane on June 24. That would break an Indians record set by Harry Ostediek from 1910-13.
The minicamp continues today (11 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.) and Thursday (4:30-9 p.m.) at Avista Stadium. All workouts are free and open to the public.
The Indians will begin the 76-game NWL season at 6:30 p.m. Friday at home against the Eugene Emeralds. Spokane will play 10 of its first 13 games at home, including five straight against Eugene.