SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yan Gomes chose to focus on competing for a roster spot with the Indians this spring rather than leaving camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. That decision will pay off in the form of increased playing time.

Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana will depart soon to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming Classic, opening the door for Gomes to get extra at-bats. Manager Terry Francona said backup catcher Lou Marson and Gomes will likely alternate starts until Santana returns.

"It'll be really good for him," Francona said Thursday morning. "I think he's caught enough to this point where he can do that physically."

Gomes is in the running for a bench role as a third-string catcher behind Santana and Marson, and a reserve option for first base, third base, designated hitter and the corner outfield spots. What the Indians really want to evaluate is whether the 25-year-old Gomes can develop into a realistic fit for a starting catching job down the road.

Given that line of thinking, the Indians will need to weigh whether Gomes should open this season as a part-time player in the big leagues or a regular starter behind the plate at Triple-A Columbus.

Gomes is not competing with Marson for the Tribe's backup catching role.

"We all respect what Lou can do. That's an important job," Francona said. "The thing we're trying to figure out, because Gomes hasn't done it, is can he possibly be an everyday Major League catcher. That's a lot to handle, but we need to answer that."

Cleveland acquired Gomes, along with infielder Mike Aviles, from Toronto in November in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers. Gomes hit .204 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games between five stints with the Blue Jays last season. With Triple-A Las Vegas, the catcher hit .328 with 13 homers, 29 doubles and 59 RBIs in 79 games.

Through four Cactus League games this spring, Gomes has gone 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate with one home run, two doubles and five RBIs for the Indians.

"He's pretty darned good," Francona said. "You try not to let guys' at-bats influence how you view their defense, because that can really happen easily. But catching-wise, I think we've all thought he's been pretty solid. Again, we've played seven games, but the initial returns are pretty good."

Francona wants home-plate collisions to stay

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not believe home-plate collisions should be banned by Major League Baseball.

Earlier this week, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny expressed his feelings that baseball should ban collisions at the plate and requested a meeting with Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, to discuss the matter.

Matheny spent 13 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher and had his career ended due to a concussion.

"First, let me preface it by saying how much respect I have for Mike," Francona said. "I do not agree. We talked about this last year. I don't think people have thought it through enough."

Francona believes changing the rules to eliminate home-plate collisions -- a move aimed at protecting catchers from injury -- could lead to injuries for baserunners.

"You're going to get more baserunners injured," Francona said. "The game's going too fast. You've just got to let guys play. As an organization, if you want your guy to move, [that's fine]. But I don't think people are taking into account that if the [runner] is coming around third, the ball's coming, and the catcher is there, what if the catcher lunges at somebody, or blocks the plate, what's the runner going to do?

"You're going to get more baserunners hurt. It's unfortunate when a catcher gets hurt, but it's kind of part of the game. I guess every organization can do what they choose. I don't think you can ever institute a rule."

Francona was asked what he would instruct his catcher to do in such situations.

"Play the game right," replied the manager.

That includes blocking home plate on such plays.

"When it's called for, yeah," Francona said.

Quote to note

"I feel right now like we've got the team that's going to say, 'This year, it's Tribe Time.' I'm serious."
--Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera

Smoke signals

• With Indians shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela) and Mike Aviles (Puerto Rico) both leaving camp to play in the World Baseball Classic, the Tribe will have a chance to see a variety of shortstops. Manager Terry Francona said the club will bring up Minor Leaguers, such as prospects Francisco Lindor and Ronny Rodriguez, while continuing to give playing time at short to Juan Diaz and Luis Hernandez.

• Francona said he plans on speaking with Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez (also the manager of Cleveland's Double-A Akron club) about whether Minor League lefty Giovanni Soto (Puerto Rico) should be used as a starter in the World Baseball Classic. Soto has posted a 47.25 ERA in two Cactus League games (1 1/3 innings) for the Indians.

• Indians reliever Joe Smith, who is working his way back from a minor left abdominal strain, threw off a mound for a 28-pitch live batting practie session Thursday morning at Cleveland's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Smith might be cleared for his first Cactus League outing next week.