Josh Barfield was able to prove his versatility to manager Eric Wedge and earn the final bench spot on the Tribe’s roster. Barfield demonstrated significant progress and sufficient ability playing both the outfield and third base throughout the Cactus League season. Wedge also cited the speed and decision making of Barfield as a pinch runner in late game situations as another advantage which worked in the 26 year old’s favor. Barfield continued to struggle at the plate throughout the spring, hitting only .184 to date, but displayed those desirable intangible traits – effort, “grinding” ability, willingness to be a team player – that the organization and Eric Wedge cherish so much. It is easy to admire Barfield’s attitude and versatility. Playing time, however, will be hard to come by for Barfield in the final spot on the bench. It will probably turn out that in fact the majority of his infrequent playing time is created as a pinch runner.
Barfield made the roster not only because of his versatility but also because of a void of experienced outfielders that the Tribe felt would be legitimate solutions when Spring Training breaks. The club will, however, in all likelihood be calling up at least two young outfield prospects from AAA Columbus at some point during the season. These call ups would probably come from the group of Trevor Crowe, Matt LaPorta, and Michael Brantley. All three had promising springs which encouraged Chris Antonetti to issue this quote: “He [Crowe] is very close to big-league ready. We have three outfielders at Columbus [Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Crowe] and all three could conceivably be ready to help us this season. They all had good camps and give us real depth.” Crowe was the closest to making the roster while both LaPorta and Brantley were expected to start the season in the minors.
Crowe has only played 46 games at the triple A level and the Tribe was wary of starting the season with that inexperience on the bench. Some argue that this may work in Crowe’s favor as he plays everyday at triple A while Barfield really only has a chance as an everyday player at 2nd base (a very slim chance with Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena in the organization). The other prospect who was legitimately in the hunt for the final roster spot was Chris Gimenez. Gimenez showed ability as a major league catcher and can also play a corner outfield spot and first base. He had 10 hits in 28 Cactus League at bats. He will work at catcher in the minors and would most likely only be recalled as a catcher which would require some sort of injury to either Victor or Shoppach. Veteran Tony Graffanino remains in camp as a utility infielder and will continue to play when any of the roster players take a day off. He will be sent to triple A as the season begins unless another team decides to pick him up.
Of course the name that has not been mentioned yet and what this all means is that Tribe fans will once again be the lab mice in yet another test run in the twisted David Dellucci experiment. At this point, some Tribe fans might prefer to see the ghost of Mike Rouse on the roster and at the plate instead of Dellucci. The Italian outfielder has really worn out his welcome with many Tribe fans and the organization has acknowledged as much. The aforementioned Trevor Crowe is waiting on the doorstep should Dellucci get off to a slow start for the third season in a row (chances of this are about 99%). Dellucci has been experiencing some calf problems recently and had to sit out yesterday against the D-backs. This injury, which is not considered serious, will not likely change his roster status as Wedge stated that Dellucci had made the roster from early on in camp.
(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)