The home stretch

Thumbnail image for ducks.jpgWhen the calendar flips to Wednesday, there will be one week left in Arizona for the Indians. The time has come for the club to get all its ducks in a row.

Cleveland likely has a pretty good idea who will be heading north with the big club, but a lot can change in a hurry. Pretty soon, though, the Opening Day roster will be finalized.

On Tuesday, the Tribe further trimmed its spring gathering by outrighting right-hander Jensen Lewis to Triple-A Columbus. He cleared waivers and was not able to decline the Minor League assignment.

That reduced the field vying for three available bullpen spots by one. Up and down the roster, there are decisions left to be made (or announced anyway). There are favorites, but holes remain at third base, on the bench and at the back end of the rotation and bullpen.

Here is a breakdown of what we know right now.

POSTION PLAYERS:

1B – Matt LaPorta
2B – Orlando Cabrera
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
3B -
C – Carlos Santana
LF – Austin Kearns
CF – Michael Brantley
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Travis Hafner

Breakdown: The favorite for the starting third base job right now is veteran Jack Hannahan. He’d be a favorite for a utility infield role due to his ability to play all four infield spots with plus defense, but the left hand injury to Jason Donald has Hannahan as the top contender for the vacancy at third base. Other options include Jayson Nix and Luis Valbuena. Technically, the Indians have not said Orlando Cabrera is the starting second baseman, either. But clearly the signs are all there.

BENCH:

C-
OF-
INF-
UTIL-

Breakdown: Yep, it’s still wide open. Lou Marson is up against Luke Carlin and Paul Phillips for the backup catcher role. Travis Buck is the favorite for the extra outfield job. The Tribe could go a couple ways with the last utility role. They could carry a fifth outfielder who can double as a first baseman or DH, or they could carry an extra infielder. With Hannahan now pulled into the starting lineup mix, it’s not clear which direction the Indians are leaning.

ROTATION (not necessarily in this order):

1. Fausto Carmona
2. Justin Masterson
3. Mitch Talbot
4. Carlos Carrasco
5.

Breakdown: The Indians are on the verge of revealing their rotation and it says here that the fifth spot will go to Josh Tomlin. That said, Cleveland has not made anything official and David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez are still in the mix, as far as public knowledge goes.

BULLPEN

CL – Chris Perez
SU – Tony Sipp
SU – Rafael Perez
MR- Chad Durbin
MR-
LR-
LR-

Breakdown: Joe Smith (upper abdominal strain) is doubtful for Opening Day and Lewis is at Triple-A. That leaves Justin Germano, Doug Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann and Jess Todd battling for three spots. Germano and Pestano look to be leading the pack and Herrmann is right in the mix as well. Mathis and Todd are still under consideration as well.

Things to consider…

LIKELY HEADED TO DL:

OF- Grady Sizemore
OF- Trevor Crowe
INF- Jason Donald
RP- Joe Smith
SP- Anthony Reyes

OUT OF OPTIONS:

INF- Jayson Nix

NOT ON 40-MAN ROSTER:

C- Luke Carlin
C- Paul Phillips
INF- Adam Everett
INF- Jack Hannahan
INF- Cord Phelps
OF- Jordan Brown
OF- Chad Huffman
OF- Travis Buck
RP- Justin Germano
RP- Doug Mathis

Why do those things matter?

For Nix, he would have to be passed through waivers in order to be sent to the Minor Leagues. While on waivers, he’d be up for grabs for other teams. With Donald out, putting Nix on waivers risks losing a layer of depth for 2B and 3B. Before Donald’s injury, Nix looked to be on the bubble. Things might be different now. Depth is important.

As for the non-roster players, the Indians would need to make a subsequent transaction in order to add them to the 40-man. Now, the roster is currently at 39 due to the Lewis move, so there is room for one player (Buck? Hannahan? Germano?). Designating a player for assignment (i.e. removing them from the 40-man roster) first exposes them to waivers. Also, if a player is placed on the 60-day DL (Trevor Crowe is a candidate), that would free up a spot on the roster.

All of these things factor into the final makeup of an Opening Day roster. And, remember, the Opening Day roster only matters for one game. The roster could easily change a few days into the season and it will go through changes all season long. April 1 is only a date on the calendar. That’s why guys like Smith and Sizemore aren’t rushed back just to be in the lineup on Opening Day. It’s more important to be available for the bulk of the season, not for just the first game of the year.

Time to play GM again. Based on the current options and situation, how would your Opening Day roster shake out?

For the rest of the day’s news, check Indians.com.

–JB

3 Comments

I personally feel like Cord Phelps deserves a shot at 3B. Unlike Chisenhall, he has had experience, and performed well at AAA. so that argument is moot in his case. It’s more important to see what we have in Phelps, and having him as depth option is more important than any NRI. That said, i’d still put Hanahan on the roster as the utility infielder, but the 40-man issue could be a problem, so i’d put my money on Valbuena.

I’d give the back-up catcher spot to Marson, just because he’s probably proven what he can do at the minors, and could use the experience at the major league level to learn more. Plus, that eliminates 40 man issues. Buck and Duncan, get my final two spots to serve as a R-L tandem off the bench.

For the bullpen, I’d like to see Pestano and Germano handed the spots, and Herrmann makes sense as well. Tomlin probably gets the last rotation spot as well.

I’m also gonna bet Nix is waived.

Oh, no! They might lose Nix! Why not try to deal him first? Waive him, they get the waiver money if someone picks him up-which is exactly what they got him for. What’s the big deal? They seem to like Valbuena better, they have Phelps and Kipnis in the high minors, and if they aren’t good enough to replace Nix, then they shouldn’t be in the organization anyway.

Shelley Duncan and Joe Smith can go. Duncan has too limited a skill set, as does Smith. I suggest they DL Smith with the goal of getting him healthy, and then trade him. The Indians have no business rostering a right handed pitcher that can only get right handers out. Use that spot for someone who gets right handers out and is not totally helpless against lefties.

The starting rotation doesn’t look all that good to me, and I’m a little upset that they didn’t really have a competition. They named 4 before spring training even started, and I don’t know if anyone noticed, but Tomlin was given all the favorable match ups and the starts. Didn’t have to repeatedly try to come in in relief like the other “competitors” and has pitched quite a few of his innings against the minor leaguers. Maybe Huff and Gomez would have done better in those circumstances. Understand, I’m not knocking Tomlin. He’s had a terrific spring. But he WAS also given advantages that the other competitors didn’t have. Reyes has a set back, and now they don’t even let him pitch. Why did they bother to bring him back then? They do so many things that don’t make baseball sense. Sorry, I strayed off track, but the Indians make me mad because they keep so many players around that they apparently have no intention of using, of EVER using.

Let’s see…
Marson has never had a full season at the AAA level, so sending him to Columbus wouldn’t be a bad idea. He’s a heck of a defensive catcher who has never been allowed to develop at the plate. Making him Santana’s back-up would be a waste.
Reyes had elbow pain, which is why they didn’t let him pitch. They had every intention of giving him a shot.
Also, it’s spring training — claiming that Tomlin faced easier competition is silly. They all faced easier competition than they normally would, until perhaps recently. The fact that Huff and Gomez got shelled by lesser competition is an indictment on them, not a slight on Tomlin.

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