Put me in coach…

The Indians have a hole to fill in the outfield and general manager Chris Antonetti’s challenge now is to determine whether the team should stand pat or bring in even more fresh blood.

We already knew that center fielder Grady Sizemore was not an option for Opening Day. On Thursday, we learned he’d be out at least two to three months after having surgery on his lower back.

Cleveland projects to have Shin-Soo Choo in right field and — unless Ezequiel Carrera turns into the second coming of Kenny Lofton this spring — Michael Brantley will take over in center field.

As for the third spot, well, the Indians have all of Spring Training to sort out that situation.

“We tried to build in some depth to our roster in some of the alternatives that are already in camp,” Antonetti said. “We feel like we have some quality in-house candidates who will go out and compete for some of that playing time, and our scouts will continue to be out there evaluating other camps to determine if there are potential upgrades from somewhere else.”

The in-house options are as follows:

Shelley Duncan — out of options; can play first, left, DH; right-handed.
Aaron Cunningham — out of options; can play all three spots; right-handed.
Russ Canzler — limited MLB experience; better at first base than in left; righty.
Matt LaPorta — hasn’t played LF since 2010; struggled last 2 years; righty.
Thomas Neal — no MLB experience; on 40-man roster; right-handed.
Chad Huffmann — limited MLB experience; non-roster invite; righty.
Ryan Spilborghs — coming off injury; NRI; can play all three spots; righty.
Ezequiel Carrera — limited experience; best as center fielder; on roster; lefty.
Fred Lewis — solid hitter a few years ago; left fielder; NRI; lefty.
Felix Pie — coming off a down year; can play all three spots; NRI; lefty.
Nick Weglarz — injuries hindered last two years; no MLB time; on roster; lefty.
Trevor Crowe — coming off injury; NRI; can play all three positions; switch hitter.

Simply due to their being out of options, I think Duncan and Cunningham will be looked at closely for roles on the Opening Day roster. Both could potentially be on the bench — one as a 4th outfielder and the other as a utility man. Or, one could win the starting role with the other on the bench.

There are a variety of ways the Indians could go with left field — a platoon situation even? — and this seems like a competition that will last until the final days of Spring Training.

Some notes from Thursday…

  • As has been noted for a few days, the Indians are on the verge of naming their Opening Day starter. Indians manager Manny Acta plans on revealing his choice — either Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez – before Friday’s workout. I still say my money is on Masterson to earn the honor.
  • The Indians held their second intrasquad game of the spring on Thursday and the star of the show was Canzler. He launched a bomb of a grand slam to center field and ended the afternoon with five RBIs in the abbreviated contest. Talk about making a strong first impression.
  • Cunningham did not log any playing time in either intrasquad game over the past two days. Acta said the outfielder is nursing a sore left hand from hitting. Cunningham was on the field and taking BP during Thursday’s workout and Acta said the outfielder should be fine to play in Saturday’s game.
  • Lefty reliever Raffy Perez hasn’t been on a mound in a few days. It turns out that Perez is dealing with some soreness in his throwing shoulder and he shut things down for a bit. I was told it’s not considered serious and that Perez should be able to resume a throwing program within the next few days.
  • The intrasquad game ended in a 5-5 tie when Acta motioned to end things during the home half of the fifth. Some offensive highlights — beyond Canzler’s big day – included a solo homer by Pie, an RBI double by Weglarz and a two-run double for Spilborghs. Minor League pitchers Scott Barnes and Danny Salazar absorbed the bulk of the damage.
  • A few of the starting pitcher candidates who threw in the game were solid for the Tribe. Derek Lowe only needed eight pitches (six strikes) to complete a 1-2-3 first inning. Slowey allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera, but got through his inning unscathed on 14 pitches. Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister each logged one clean frame on eight pitches.
  • Chatted for a bit with Spilborghs, who is convinced his platar fasciitis injury is what was behind his poor 2011 showing. I’ve had it — it’s no fun — and I wasn’t being asked to try to hit Major League pitching, only watch it. Spilborghs said he couldn’t put any weight on his back leg without sharp pain in his foot and his mechanics, and then his stats took a big hit. He’s healthy now, but still wears a boot when he sleeps. “I do not want that thing to ever come back,” he said.

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Photo of the Day

Reporter Katie Witham of STO took BP today off Indians PR man Bart Swain. Gotta say, her swing wasn’t bad. Five minutes with hitting coach Bruce Fields did wonders.

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Make sure you’re reading Indians.com and following me on Twitter (@MLBastian). To see more of my Spring Training photos, CLICK HERE.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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