Indians’ Opening Day roster is set

By Tony Lastoria

Special to FOX Sports Ohio

The Indians announced several moves on Monday with regard to their Opening Day 25-man roster. As the dust settled, barring injury, the 2013 Cleveland Indians roster is set.

The biggest move was the announcement that left-hander Scott Kazmir will open the season as the Indians’ fifth starter. He will not formally be added to the roster until his first start in Tampa on April 6, so as to allow the Indians to have right-hander Carlos Carrasco on the roster the first six days of the season so he can serve his six-game suspension.

Once Carrasco’s suspension has been served, he will be optioned to Triple-A Columbus and start every five days there and be the first or second option the Indians call upon when a starting pitching need arises. The Indians will only have 24 players on the roster the first week of the season while Carrasco serves his suspension, so it makes sense to circumvent the issue for at least the first four days while a fifth starter is not needed.

Another decision came with regard to the final makeup of the bench. Infielder Ryan Raburn was informed that he had made the team but has not yet been officially added to the 40-man roster. Infielder Cord Phelps and catcher Yan Gomes had impressive camps, but were optioned to Columbus. Both need to continue playing every day in Columbus as Phelps needs to add more versatility to his game by playing some first base and Gomes needs everyday work at catcher to become a legit option there in the big leagues down the road.

First baseman and designated hitter Jason Giambi was also named to the team as a bench option and was added to the 40-man roster, although was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 9, which conveniently aligns with the end of Carrasco’s suspension. It is expected that once Carrasco’s suspension is over and he is optioned out, that Giambi will be activated to replace him on the roster. To make room on the 40-man roster for Giambi, the Indians designated outfielder Ezequiel Carrera for assignment.

The final big decision the Indians had to make was naming the last four spots in the bullpen. They announced lefties Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill along with righties Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers were all assured of spots on the Opening Day roster.

The moves leave outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and lefty David Huff on the outside looking in. Both are out of options, which means the Indians will need to trade them or try to sneak them through waivers in order to outright them to the minors.  At the moment, the Indians are actively looking into trades for both players, but due to their lack of roster flexibility with no remaining options and the timing of the moves, it will be difficult to find a taker. Carrera has already been designated for assignment and Huff could soon join him, and then the Indians just let the trade and waiver process play itself out.

First baseman Chris McGuiness will also not make the team. As a Rule 5 pick the Indians will have to offer him back to the Rangers since he will not be on their 25-man roster. Provided he clears waivers, the Indians are hopeful that they can complete a trade with the Rangers in order to retain him. If a trade is unable to be completed by the end of the week – and he has cleared waivers – he will simply return to the Rangers.

Speaking of Rule 5 picks, former Indians’ farmhands left-hander T.J. McFarland and right-hander Hector Rondon should both know their roster fates in the coming days. Rondon is expected to make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster as he has had a nice showing this spring, but McFarland is not expected to make the Orioles. Baltimore would like to keep him, but the Indians also would like to bring him back, so it will be interesting to see what happens on that front in the next few days.

The Indians also announced that they released right-handed pitcher Matt Capps from his minor league contract. While the move technically makes him a free agent to sign with any team, the move is expected to be more a procedural move so the team was not forced to pay a $100,000 retention bonus on March 26 if they kept him around.  The Indians want to keep him and are working on a new deal as they are with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, so while Capps continues to weigh his options the Indians made the move to free themselves up from having to commit to the $100,000 bonus.

Looking ahead, when Kazmir is formally added, the Indians will need to make a move to create space on both the 40-man and 25-man rosters. With three 40-man spots soon to be vacated by McGuiness, Carrera and Huff, it will be easy to add Kazmir and Raburn.

However, the interesting twist with Kazmir is not only does he have to be added to the 40-man roster, but the 25-man as well, so that means someone who made the Opening Day roster will be optioned out to Columbus just days later. That player looks like to be Shaw as he has options and was one of the last bullpen options to be named to the team.