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Damon to join Indians in Chicago

Damon to join Indians in Chicago
April 30, 2012
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Sunday evening it was reported by the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes that Indians' outfielder Johnny Damon would join the team on Tuesday and be activated for the game against the White Sox in Chicago.

After the Indians struggled to score a total of 16 runs on their six game homestand against the Royals and Angels, which they somehow found a way to go 3-3, the decision makers felt the time was now to add Damon without sending him on a short minor league assignment. Damon will probably get the majority of the playing time in left field, which comes at the right time with Shelley Duncan mired in a major slump.

With the off day on Monday, the Indians will probably have Damon work out with the team before officially making the move on Monday or Tuesday. When they do activate him them will have to not only clear a spot on the 25-man roster, but they also have to add him to the 40-man roster, so someone has to go.  Shin-Soo Choo is expected to be ready to play on Tuesday so will likely not go on the disabled list, and even if he had gone on the disabled list the Indians would of have still had to remove someone from the 40-man roster. There are many possibilities as to who could be removed.

The possibilities include going with an 11-man pitching staff by designating one of the two right-handers at the back of their bullpen for assignment, Jairo Asenscio or Dan Wheeler. But the Indians seem to prefer a 12-man pitching staff, so they will probably make a position player for position player swap when they add Damon.

The Indians could go one of two ways when they make the move as they could designate infielder Joe Lopez or outfielder Aaron Cunningham. The obvious choise to many fans would be to let Cunningham go, but if you do that the Indians have absolutely no outfield depth or a true outfielder that can play all three positions as it would leave them with Duncan and Damon who can only play left field, Choo in right, and Brantley in center. They would not have anyone that gives them an option to sit Brantley from time to time, or fill in in center field or right field when someone gets hurt or if Choo needs a day off.

So Cunningham appears safe, or the role he plays appears safe as the Indians may soon make a swap with someone from Triple-A Columbus in a separate transaction to fill the fourth outfielder role in Cleveland.

The way things are looking, it seems like Lopez will be the one to go. With Damon on the team it is going to slide Duncan into his customary bench role where he is the right-handed bat off the bench that plays some left field and first base. With a four man bench that already includes the backup catcher (Lou Marson), backup middle infielder (Jason Donald), and fourth outfielder (Cunningham or any replacement), there is no room for both Duncan and Lopez, and besides, they are redundant.

Lopez had a great spring training and won a job with the team, but he has only played in five games to date going just 4-for-21 in limited time. With Duncan pushed to a bench role, that playing time would be even less, so he is probably the one to go. If he is let go, he would probably be given his unconditional release since even if he were to clear waivers he would probably decline an assignment to the minors and elect free agency anyway.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

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