Tribe still sorting out final 2013 roster
MAR 17, 2013 9:32p ET
The Cleveland Indians open the 2013 season two weeks from tomorrow against the Toronto Blue Jays.
With the clock winding down on another spring training, some final decisions on the roster will be announced over the next seven to ten days before they break camp on March 30th. A few spots have already been declared, but there are still several spots that have yet to be officially finalized.
The everyday lineup was set shortly after the start of spring training when the Indians inked outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year $48 million deal, but the Indians came into camp with several spots on the 25-man roster up for grabs. With four open spots in the bullpen, two open spots in the rotation, and two open spots on the bench, it has made for an interesting camp to date to see who has excelled and who has struggled in each of those position battles.
As camp has played out over the past five or so weeks, the Indians have named right-hander Zach McAllister to one of the rotation spots. Going into camp he had a decided leg up on one of the two rotation openings given his experience and solid performance last year in Cleveland. He just needed to maintain his health and have a good showing this spring and the job was his, and that is what happened as he was named to the fourth starter post last week.
Last week the bullpen picture became clearer as two of the spots were filled with left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Cody Allen. The Indians officially named Allen to the opening day bullpen a few days ago, and although no official announcement was made about Hill, his addition to the 40-man roster is all the confirmation that is needed.
Even with these decisions, there is still one rotation spot, two bullpen spots, and two bench spots up that have to be sorted out. If you have been following the progress of spring training you know that there are clear leaders for almost all of these spots, so here is an update on where things stand:
Fifth starter: At this point this is lefty Scott Kazmir's job to lose. The Indians picked him up in the offseason on a minor league non-guaranteed deal, and to date he has looked like their best starting pitcher in camp. While the velocity is not what it once was, it is back in the low 90s and touching 94 MPH, and more importantly his stuff has returned.
Kazmir had his string of eleven straight shutout innings this spring come to an end on Sunday as he was touched up for four runs on seven hits in five innings of work in a minor league game. He was hurt a little by a young defense behind him and some weak contact finding holes, but overall he looked solid. There are some command concerns with him, but barring an injury in his last two outings in Arizona he is expected to be named as the winner of the fifth starter competition anytime in the next week.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer has had a good camp and deserves to be on the club, but Kazmir's emergence is intriguing and worth seeing through. This allows the Indians to be patient with Bauer by sending him to Triple-A Columbus to continue to hone in on his command, maybe control his clock a little, and be the first or second option they call upon when a need arises (and one will arise).
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco has been so-so and probably needs a little time at Columbus to shake off the rust, which is not unusual for a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery. Right-hander Corey Kluber has established himself as more of a solid depth option than a long term option. Right-hander Diasuke Matsuzaka is a little behind the others and probably needs five or six starts in the minors to get a better assessment of him.
In all, with Bauer, Carrasco, Kluber, and Matsuzaka, the Indians could have four capable Major League starters in the Columbus rotation, which is a good problem to have.
Two bullpen spots: This boils down to two mini competitions. The first one is between lefties Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes as one of them should make the team as the second lefty in the pen. Hagadone has looked very good this spring, which is no surprised as he really looked good last season for two months until things unraveled on him his final three weeks before getting hurt in early July. As long as he avoids the injury bug these final few days, he should break camp and go to Cleveland while Barnes goes to Columbus.
As for the other spot, it is a competition between Matt Albers, David Huff, Matt Capps, and Bryan Shaw. Albers has the inside track to the job and it is his at this point because he cannot be sent to the minors and will make a guaranteed $1.75 million this season. But the Indians might be looking to deal him as a lot of teams right now are looking for cheap, solid options to round out their bullpens.
If Albers is dealt, it opens the door for one of Huff, Capps or Shaw to make the team. Shaw has options and could easily be sent to the minors, and probably will be. Capps is signed to a minor league deal and provided he does not have an April 2nd opt out in his contract, he can be sent to the minors to open the season. Huff is out of options, so he has to be on the opening day roster or be traded, released, or put on waivers.
The possibilities are endless as to what can happen with that last bullpen spot – and it is a spot that will be in flux all season – but at the outset of the season it looks like the Indians are giving Huff every opportunity to make the team. With the Indians opening the season with 13 straight games and no off days, they will need someone in the bullpen that can log a lot of innings early in games to save the bullpen from early season wear and tear. So at this point, if Albers is not traded he wins the last spot, but if he is dealt then it looks like Huff has the inside track to that last spot.
Two bench spots: The bench has all but been settled at this point as Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi have done enough this spring to show they deserve to be on the roster. Raburn provides a veteran bat with some pop that they can work with in the early going to see if he is a bounce back candidate after an awful season last year.
Giambi is around mostly as an occasional DH or first baseman, and most importantly as a leader of the team. The 1995 Indians had that with Dave Winfield who did not play well that season and did not play much at all, but was a leader on the team. The 2007 Indians had that with Trot Nixon as he played a lot but was not a very good performer, though his influence and leadership in the clubhouse were invaluable. That is something the Indians are hoping Giambi provides them this year.
This means Yan Gomes will open at Columbus. He impressed this spring and the organization is confident he can help them at the Major League level in the near future, but he needs to play every day to finish off his catching skills. Barring a trade of incumbent backup catcher Lou Marson in the next few days, Gomes will be on call in Columbus if Marson or Carlos Santana gets hurt, or if Raburn has performance or injury issues.
Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera's days with the organization look numbered. He is out of options and is all but out of the mix for a bench spot, so will probably be designated for assignment at the end of camp. He could be traded or even claimed by another team, but if he clears waivers he would still be property of the Indians and have to accept an outright assignment to Columbus.