Figuring Out Some Undefined Spots on the Cleveland Indians Roster
For every baseball fan, these are magic words: Pitchers and catchers report this week.
That happens this week for most Major League Baseball teams, including the Cleveland Indians whose pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday to Goodyear.
Usually under the management of Terry Francona, there aren't many questions in regards to the 25, now 26 man roster.
This season, there will be some competition for jobs when the Tribe comes north on March 26th to take on the Detroit Tigers, and we will take a look at those battles.
The Outfield: With the impending addition of outfielder Domingo Santana, there will be 10 man battling for five or perhaps six spots on the roster. It would seem that Oscar Mercado, Franmil Reyes, and Jordan Luplow have spots locked up.
We can probably include Domingo Santana in that group as well.
That leaves six players (Bradley Zimmer, Daniel Johnson, Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Delino DeShields, and also Tyler Naquin (if his knee is ready to go) battling for one or two spots.
The left-handed hitters would seem to have an edge because if the Indians continue to use Luplow as a platoon player, they need a partner. If Naquin is ready to go, he is that guy.
We feel Francona will keep six outfielders with DeShields seeming to have an inside track too.
That leaves Zimmer, Johnson, Allen, and Bauers on the outside looking in. If Naquin isn't ready, we would guess Bauers gets the first shot.
The Bullpen: There is much excitement surrounding the 'pen because of the acquisition of Emmanuel Clase and the emergence of James Karinchak at the end of last season.
However, those two have combined for just 28 innings at the big league level, so it wouldn't be shocking to see either start at Columbus because they had a bad spring training.
Brad Hand will be the closer, and we would say Oliver Perez and Nick Wittgren have spots locked up.
That leaves the two youngsters to battle with Phil Maton, Adam Cimber, James Hoyt, Hunter Wood, and perhaps Jefry Rodriguez to come north. And don't forget Dominic Leone, a non-roster invitee who pitched for St. Louis in 2019.
We listed 10 names and Francona likes to have eight guys in his bullpen, so two of this group will open in AAA.
The new rule in which a reliever must face three hitters may put Cimber in Columbus to start the year, and Rodriguez may be used as a starter to start the year.
Utility Man: While the 40 man roster is filled with outfielders, the only other infielders besides the starters are Yu Chang, Christian Arroyo, and Andrew Velazquez.
The latter may have the inside track because our guess is the front office want the other two playing everyday in AAA, especially Arroyo, because he hasn't played much the past two years because of injury.
However, if Arroyo, a former top 100 prospect with the Giants is impressive in Arizona, he could force himself on the big club.
All this said, there is always a chance for a surprise in camp. Perhaps no one can get Johnson or Zimmer out in games, and Francona puts them on the Opening Day roster.
And we hate to say it, but injuries could play a factor as well.
By the end of this month, games (exhibition, but still) will be played and we get to see our Boys of Summer (nod to the great Roger Kahn). It won't be long until the Indians are home.