We are a week away from Opening Day! Your 2013 Cleveland Indians have finally come to complete form. Manager Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti had a vision on how they wanted their roster to come together. Throughout the spring, things seemed to break exactly how they wanted them to.
Heading into Goodyear. there were two bench spots, one rotation slot, and four bullpen openings to be won. The signings of DH Jason Giambi and utility man Ryan Raburn were both talked up big time by Francona.
”The day I got the job, Chris and I were talking,” said Francona in late February. “I said if this guy [Raburn] ever comes off the Tigers’ roster, he’s a guy I like. Chris said he liked him, too. So we targeted him early.”
From the jump, Raburn made himself noticed with an 11-23 start (.478). His ability to play second, third, and corner outfield, plus the pop he has shown with hit bat made it an easy decision for Francona and Antonetti to keep him.
Upon his arrival in Goodyear, Francona spoke glowingly of Giambi, the former AL MVP. “He’s not a veteran, he’s the veteran,” he said. “I’ve already gone to him three or four times asking him questions. He’s solid. Brings a lot.” It was clear that Tito wanted an extra coach, the “veteran’s veteran” in his clubhouse to help bring this team together. If Giambi showed his trademark power, he seemed destined to make the team.
Yesterday, both Raburn and Giambi were informed they would be added to the 40-man roster. Raburn will be with the Indians on Opening Day in Toronto. Giambi was placed on the 15-day DL with back stiffness, but will be eligible to join the team on April 9th. When Jason joins the team, an extra reliever will be sent to Columbus.
The only real challengers for the bench roles were OF Ezequiel Carrera, IF Cord Phelps, and C/UTL Yan Gomes. Zeke had a solid spring, stealing 11 bags, but it was always going to be an uphill battle for him to break camp with the Indians. There are already three center fielders on the club (Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs), and with Raburn and Nick Swisher’s ability to play the corners, Zeke’s spring was more of an audition for the rest of the league than anything. He was designated for assignment as the Indians are trying to find a taker for him. Antonetti and Francona would love for him to go down to AAA, but he is out of options and probably will not clear waivers.
Phelps made quite an impression on Francona, looking like a new man this spring and not like the kid who was completely overwhelmed in the bigs in 2011. Cord hit .375 and looked comfortable in the field. But with options left and his inability to play the outfield, Raburn beat him out. “His future is really bright, he was as professional as can be,” said Francona.
Like Phelps, Gomes raised a lot of eyebrows in Goodyear. There is a future for the 25-year old in this organization, but the Indians would like to see that as a catcher. Antonetti wants Gomes to work on his defense and play every day behind the plate. He will do so in Columbus.
Phelps and Gomes will be the first two position players up should an injury arise.
Righty Carlos Carrasco was told yesterday that he would not be the team’s fifth starter. That job will go to 29-year old left-hander Scott Kazmir. However, Carrasco will start the season on the opening day roster in whittle down his six-game suspension from throwing at Kansas City’s Billy Butler late in the 2011 season. Carrasco missed all of 2012 because of Tommy John surgery. Kazmir will be added to the club on April 6th, the day he is scheduled to make his first start, facing one of his former teams, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tribe’s latest reclamation problem had a great spring and is a terrific story. He beat out Carrasco, kid sensation Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and former phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka.
I have zero problem with this decision. Carrasco is coming off of that TJ surgery and could use more seasoning after taking a full year off. Bauer is the future, and there is no need to rush him. Kluber is organizational depth more than anything. Dice-K was released from his deal last week, but told the media he would like to remain in the organization. The Indians are currently trying to work out a deal with him and have him start the season in Columbus.
If Dice-K sticks around, the Clippers rotation will have Carrasco, Bauer, Kluber, and Matsuzaka as its top four. That is the kind of quality depth the organization lacked in 2012. Should an injury occur, should Kazmir falter, should Ubaldo Jimenez implode, Carrasco would probably get the first call.
My biggest concern with this team is clearly the rotation. There are literally no sure things. Justin Masterson, the team’s top dog, is coming off of a subpar season. Ubaldo is a complete tossup. Third starter Brett Myers is a guy who pitched out of the bullpen the entire 2012 season. This spring, he allowed 20 earned runs on 33 hits in 16 innings. Spring numbers shouldn’t scare anyone, but Myers has only had a sub-four ERA once since 2007. Zach McAllister is the fourth starter and the big right-hander should be solid at the back end of the rotation. Kazmir is a lottery ticket.
Finally, we get to the bullpen. Closer Chris Perez will be ready for opening day, so there will be no need to make an extra decision. Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, and Cody Allen were already locked in.
Lefties Rich Hill and Nick Hagadone won bullpen spots with strong performances. Hill, a former Cubs top prospect, has found a home as a situational reliever. He didn’t allow a run this spring until last night’s four run explosion against the Rockies. Hagadone did not allow a run in eight appearances, striking out 11 and walking two in eight innings. As impressive as these two lefties were, the reliever who probably had the best spring was the newly acquired Bryan Shaw. Shaw came over from Arizona in Choo/Bauer three-team deal and had something to prove. Like Hagadone, Shaw made eight appearances. He gave up just one earned run while striking out 14 in eight innings. His former Diamondbacks teammate Matt Albers will also open the season with the Tribe.
The Indians will carry an eighth reliever until Giambi is ready to come off the DL. At that point, someone will have to be sent down.
So as of today, unless something unexpected pops up, the opening day roster will look like this:
Catchers – Carlos Santana, Lou Marson
Infielders – Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Reynolds, Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn
Outfielders – Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs
Starters – Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco (will be replaced by Scott Kazmir on April 6th)
Relievers – Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill
DL – Jason Giambi
(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)