With Opening Day just a week away, the Indians still have over 40 players still in camp, meaning they have a lot of tough decisions to make on who will come to Cleveland next week.
Another thing that complicates matters is that several non-roster players are playing themselves on to the roster. That may be a good thing, but the organization will have to take men off the 40-man roster to make room.
That roster now stands at 39 players after reliever Jensen Lewis was waived earlier this week, as predicted in this space.
If we say the starting lineup is as follows: Matt LaPorta at first, Orlando Cabrera at 2B, Asdrubal Cabrera at SS, and Luis Valbuena at 3B, with an outfield of Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley, and Austin Kearns, and Carlos Santana behind the plate, and Travis Hafner as the DH, then how does the bench break out?
First off, the backup catcher may be a non-roster player, either veterans Paul Phillips or Luke Carlin. That could happen if the brass decides Lou Marson needs to play everyday somewhere. The bet here is Marson stays in Cleveland.
The utility infielder battle is probably between veteran NRI (non roster invitee) Jack Hannahan and Jayson Nix. Really, the former will probably start at third, with Valbuena being the backup at 2B, SS, and 3B. The guess is that Nix gets designated for assignment because he can only really play 2B, and hasn’t hit in Arizona.
Another possibililty is that non-roster guy Adam Everett makes the squad instead of Valbuena, but that would mean someone else might have to go, perhaps Shelley Duncan?
The two other bench spots will likely go to Travis Buck and Chad Huffman, both non-roster guys. Huffman beats out Duncan, although that’s a tough decision. Duncan hits southpaws very well.
With one spot open on the roster, they means one more player will have to go.
We project the Tribe will put OF Trevor Crowe, out all training camp with a shoulder problem, and the 60 day disabled list to start the season. This procedure allows the club to take him off the 40 man roster.
When he is able to play, he will have to be put back on the roster or released, but the injury buys the front office time to further evaluate players.
As for the pitching staff, the starting rotation appears to be set with Fausto Carmona at the top, followed by Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, and Josh Tomlin.
In the bullpen, the for sure spots belong to closer Chris Perez, southpaws Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez, and newcomer Chad Durbin.
That leaves three spots open, as Joe Smith will start the season on the disabled list. The four candidates are Frank Herrmann, Jess Todd, rookie Vinnie Pestano, and veteran Doug Mathis, with the latter being the odd man out because he’s a non roster player.
That, and the problems he’s had throwing strikes at the big league level, and in exhibition play as well.
When Smith is healthy, the Indians can always send Herrmann, Pestano, and even Smith back to Columbus, because they have options left.
So there you have it. The Tribe will keep Marson as the backup catcher, release Jayson Nix and Duncan, and put Trevor Crowe on the 60 day DL.
The latter three moves open up three more spots on the 40 man roster, so the Tribe can add Hannahan, Everett, Buck, and Huffman.
Problem solved. Would you like any other advice, Chris Antonetti?