Masterson reignites negotiations, slated to pitch today vs. Cubs

Cleveland Indians pitcher Justin Masterson signs autographs for fans before a spring training game in Goodyear, Ariz.

Paul Sancya/AP

Justin Masterson takes the mound today as the Indians take on the Cubs in Goodyear (first pitch — 3:05 p.m.). For Masterson and GM Chris Antonetti, Masterson’s second start of the spring at least temporarily gets the focus back to on-field matters.

Masterson’s contract was going to be a storyline at some point this season, but when the Reds signed Homer Bailey to a 6-year, $105 million extension, it became one of the main storylines of spring training. There is some optimism though over the past couple days as both sides continue to talk. Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has reported that Masterson’s side has presented a proposal in the range of $40-$60 million, which is a good starting point for a shorter deal.

In his discussions with reporters, Masterson has been upbeat about remaining a member of the Indians beyond this season. He is on track to be the Opening Day starter for the third-straight year and made the American League All-Star team last season. While Bailey’s extension was done with plans that he would eventually become the Reds’ ace, Masterson already is. That gives him and his agent, Randy Rowley, more leverage.

For a guy that has leverage, Masterson has been open with reporters in Arizona about the entire process.

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"Everyone is different, he’s got a comfort zone there. I haven’t talked to him specifically but I don’t see it tearing him up. He’s going to be really rich or really, really rich," said manager Terry Francona on Wednesday when asked about Masterson’s contract situation.

Francona also discussed how Masterson has been a mentor to some of the younger starters on the draft. With the departures of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, he will be counted on to do that even more this year.

"He’s a big kid that wants to help other people out," Francona said. "If you want to find something negative to say about Masty you would have to dig deep and even then I’m not sure you could come up with something.

About the best thing everyone can do right now is let the process take care of itself. If a deal can’t be reached by the March 31 opener in Oakland, hopefully both sides can keep an open line of communication.

A lot on the last two spots depends on how Salazar does during the spring.

"We have everything thought out, different scenarios but on in early March it doesn’t make sense to say what it is," Francona said. "Someone is going to pitch the first game of the year and after that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to go in order."

TODAY’S LINEUP:

Michael Bourn CF

MORE CLEVELAND INDIANS STORIES

Nick Swisher 1B

Jason Kipnis 2B

Carlos Santana 3B

Michael Brantley LF

Asdrubal Cabrera SS

Yan Gomes DH

David Murphy RF

Roberto Perez C

TODAY’S PITCHERS: Justin Masterson, Aaron Harang, Trevor Bauer and Scott Barnes