Tribe Happenings: Still no clarity on a lot of position battles
Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…
Several roster decisions are still up in the air
We are now about halfway through spring training, and the battles for the last spot in the rotation, third base, two bench roles, and two bullpen spots are still nowhere close to being settled.
The options for the final spot in the rotation are still right-handers Jeanmar Gomez and Kevin Slowey as well as left-hander David Huff. Right-hander Zach McAllister is still technically in the mix, but is not an option for the rotation out of spring training.
Slowey still has an edge in the experience department and has $1.5 million reasons why he will win the spot, although he has not pitched well this spring as he has allowed 14 hits and five runs in 8.0 innings of work. He does have an option remaining so the door is still open for one of Gomez or Huff to take the spot.
Gomez has done his best to seize the opportunity as he is pitching the best out of the three. In three appearances this spring he has thrown 7.0 shutout innings and yielded just three hits and two walks while striking out four. His fastball command has been very good and his slider is showing improvement. Huff is definitely still in the mix, but in four outings has allowed seven earned runs and 14 hits in 11.0 innings, and has not separated himself enough from Slowey like Gomez has.
The four man bench is still unclear. Barring injury, catcher Lou Marson and Jason Donald will take up two of the spots on the bench. But the last two spots are in question because it depends on if Shelley Duncan and Jack Hannahan are the starters in left field and third base, or if one or both of them are on the bench.
No matter what happens, Duncan and Hannahan will be on the team. If Duncan wins the left field job and Hannahan the third base job, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall would start the season in Triple-A Columbus and it would open up a spot on the bench for a versatile right-handed bat, a role the hot hitting Jose Lopez could fill. The fourth outfielder role would then go to one of Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, or Felix Pie.
If Duncan and Hannahan are on the bench, then Chisenhall would be at third base and there would be no room to add Lopez. One of the fourth outfield candidates listed above would become the starter in left field.
If you look how all of that sets up, it really looks like unless something crazy happens that Duncan is going to be the regular left fielder; however, Duncan would probably only play left about three to five games a week and the fourth outfielder would mix in regularly. Also, having Hannahan on the bench really limits the Indians’ chances of adding Lopez - a player they like - so it looks like Hannahan still has the edge at third base and Chisenhall would go to Columbus to start the season.
Russ Canzler is having a nice camp, but there appears to be no way he makes the team out of spring training unless one of Duncan or Lopez gets hurt. Lopez just offers up more experience and is having a great camp, plus Canzler has options and could be an option later in the year.
As for the bullpen, the Indians have whittled it down to six pitchers for the final two spots in the bullpen: Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Chris Ray, Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, and Robsinon Tejeda. Herrmann and Hagadone are the only candidates from that list that are currently on the 40-man roster, so that gives them a big leg up in consideration for the final two spots.
Hagadone is pitching well and is one of the Indians’ best young relief prospects, and Herrmann has spent most of the last two seasons in the Indians bullpen. No one has really stood out, and it would not be a surprise to see the Indians make a waiver claim or trade at the end of camp to fill one or both spots.
Carmona charges dropped
As predicted last week, some news in the case involving the right-handed pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona and now Roberto Hernendez came to light as Dominican Republic authorities dropped the false identity charges on him in exchange for a work program.
This is the first of several hurdles that Hernandez needs to clear in order to get back to the United States and join the Indians, although it was probably the easiest step in the process. He now has to work through the U.S. Consulate to get approved for a visa so he can enter the country, something that will not be an easy task considering the United States government will not want to show any leniency in a high profile case such as this and with how public their decision will be.
The other thing to consider is even when Hernandez gets his visa approved, there is the possibility of a suspension from Major League baseball that could be handed down to him. This remains to be seen as they may view everything he has gone through as “time already served” and the players union would probably fight it.
It is anyone’s guess right now when Hernandez will return to the Indians, but it looks like it could happen anytime in May or June if all goes well. Considering there are always injuries and poor performance which crops up the first few months of the season, his return could come at just the right time to give a boost to the Indians’ starting rotation.
In other Hernandez news, he and the Indians agreed on a restructured deal this week. In exchange for eliminating his $12 million club option for 2014, he agreed to reduce his salary this season and his $9 million club option for 2013 remains intact. Nothing has surfaced as to what Hernandez’s salary for this season has been reduced to, but the drop is said to be significant.
The Indians have a few guys dinged up in camp, so here is a quick update on how some of the walking wounded are doing:
Right-handed closer Chris Perez threw a bullpen on Friday and experienced no discomfort. He will throw another bullpen today, and if things go well with that he will throw a live batting practice session on Tuesday, and then could potentially make an appearance in a game on Friday. If he can manage to be ready with just five or six outings instead of the normal 10-12 in a spring - and not have any setbacks - he will open the season with the Indians and not have to open it on the disabled list.
Outfielder Grady Sizemore returned to Goodyear this past week to begin his post-surgery rehab. He underwent a lower back procedure on March 1st and is expected to be out for at least eight to twelve weeks, maybe more.
Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez and right-handed reliever Robinson Tejeda both threw in simulated games on Thursday down in minor league camp and if all goes well could be back pitching in real games sometime this week.
First baseman Casey Kotchman has not played in over a week because of lower back tightness. He took soft toss on Thursday and is expected to be back in the lineup today.
Right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco is progressing well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery as he is currently playing catch at 75 to 90 feet. He likely will not pitch this season in the big leagues, though could see some time late in the season at a minor league affiliate to get some innings.
De La Cruz returns
On Friday the Indians re-acquired left-handed pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz from the Texas Rangers in exchange for the same cash the Rangers paid the Indians when they completed a trade with each other on February 21st. He is now back on the Indians’ 40-man roster, and to make room for him they placed Carrasco on the 60-day disabled list.
The Indians had designated De La Cruz for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for free agent signing Casey Kotchman about a month ago, but probably had a feeling he would not clear waivers so they traded him in a small deal to the Rangers. He made one scoreless appearance for the Rangers this spring allowing one hit and one walk in two-thirds of an inning.
This week the Indians made some cuts from big league camp, though none were surprising as they optioned or reassigned several players to the minor leagues that were in big league camp the first few weeks just to gain the experience. Most of these players were in camp so the big league coaching staff and front office could get an extended look at them as possible options later in the season.
The players reassigned to minor league camp are right-handed pitcher Austin Adams, left-handed pitcher Scott Barnes, catcher Chun Chen, outfielder Thomas Neal, right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar, right-handed pitcher Tyler Sturdevant, and outfielder Nick Weglarz. With the moves, the current number of players in Major League camp now stands at 55.
The Indians today announced this week that they have agreed to a two-year player development contract extension with their short season Single-A minor league affiliate the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The extension runs through 2014, and the Indians and Scrappers have been in partnership since the Scrappers inaugural season in 1999. … My new 2012 Cleveland Indians Prospect Insider book is now available at Amazon.com both in print and as an e-book for the Kindle (you can download an app to read it on the iPad and other tablets).
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his new book the 2012 Cleveland Indians Prospect Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
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.