The Indians' long cold winter showed its first sign of thaw Tuesday when the team announced catcher Carlos Santana was cleared to start spring training on time in Goodyear, Ariz.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training Tuesday and begin workouts Thursday. Dr. Rick Parker from the Cleveland Clinic examined Santana's left knee Monday and OK'd him for baseball activities.

"Carlos should be on a normal spring training progression," said GM Chris Antonetti.

Santana is expected to be available for the Cactus League opener Feb. 27 against Cincinnati and the regular season opener April 1 against Chicago at Progressive Field.

On Aug. 6, Dr. Parker performed surgery on Santana's left knee to repair a torn lateral collateral ligament suffered in a home-plate collision with Boston's Ryan Kalish on Aug. 2 at Fenway Park. The switch-hitting Santana received his six-month examination Monday and was given permission to take batting practice from both sides of the plate, catch bullpen sessions and do agility drills.

After a 93-loss season in 2010 and little, if any, off-season player acquisitions to improve the club, Santana's positive medical update was welcome news to a team that drew the fewest fans in the big leagues last year.

"Last year, Carlos showed the ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball," said Antonetti. "Offensively, he takes great at-bats, has a good idea of the strike zone and usually gets a good pitch to hit. He has a chance to be a very good hitter.

"Defensively, he has the tools to be a very good catcher. He's athletic, has a good strong arm and is learning the nuances of calling a game and handling a pitching staff."

The Indians acquired Santana from the Dodgers in a trade for Casey Blake on July 26, 2008. They've been waiting for him to get to the big leagues ever since.