MLB

Masterson gets opening day nod for Indians

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP)

Justin Masterson deserved something for all his consistency last season. On Friday, he got it.

Masteron will start Cleveland's opener on April 5 against Toronto, a reward for the right-hander who was the one pitcher manager Manny Acta knew he could count on last year.

''He earned it by being the guy we wanted to see out there every five days,'' Acta said. ''By being the guy that whenever you rolled into another town, the other team was wondering if they were going to see him or not. That's what being a No.1 means in this league.''

Acta chose Masterson over Ubaldo Jimenez, the staff's presumed ace who came over in a five-player trade at the July 31 deadline from Colorado. Jimenez went 4-4 in 11 starts for Cleveland.

Acta made up his mind months ago, but only told the two pitchers of his decision on Thursday.

''We've come a long way to actually think about it and have choices for our opening day starter,'' said Acta, who is beginning his third season with the Indians. ''Two years ago we named Jake Westbrook, who was coming back from Tommy John surgery. This year we had a choice between Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.''

Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 33 starts last year. The right-hander, who had bounced between the bullpen and rotation in his career, led the Indians in ERA, strikeouts, starts and innings. He won his first five starts and continued to keep the Indians in games - despite little run support - until his last outing in September.

The 27-year-old is excited about getting the ball on opening day.

''It's an honor,'' Masterson said, ''and to set the tone out there for the team, for the game and for the season. It should be fun. Usually, it's a packed house in Cleveland. Who doesn't like playing in that type of situation?''

Masterson had minor surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder during the off-season, and Acta waited until making sure the 6-foot-6 pitcher was fully recovered in camp before announcing him as the opening-day starter.

''It wasn't a tough call at all,'' Acta said. ''Everyone knew this guy was our horse last year and Ubaldo wasn't on top of his game. Justin wasn't our opening day starter last year and he ended up being our No. 1. That's just one date.''

In last season's opener, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez) allowed 10 runs in three innings to the Chicago White Sox. Hernandez is not with the Indians after being arrested in the Dominican Republic on charges he used a false identity to pitch in the U.S. He is on Major League Baseball's restricted list.

The Indians still don't know if Hernandez will be able to pitch for them this season.

Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe have the other two spots in Cleveland's rotation. The No. 5 spot will be determined in a wide-open training camp competition between Kevin Slowey, Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff.

Tagged: Indians, Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson

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