With spring training ready to start in less than a week, Cleveland baseball fans have a reason to feel optimistic.
They have a new manager, not just any recycled skipper, but a man who has two World Series victories under his belt in Terry Francona. They signed a high-profile free agent for the first time in many years in Nick Swisher. And they have to feel good about a trio of young players who are poised to make an impact in 2013 in Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Michael Brantley.
However, there is one more thing that needs to change for the organization when the team convenes in Goodyear next week. Spring training needs to be meaningful, meaning the 25 man roster shouldn’t be set before camp begins.
Earlier this week, MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reported that the Indians’ front office was going to bring starter Trevor Bauer to the major leagues when he is ready, and were not going to rush him, meaning it will probably be a mid-season call up for one of the top prospects in the minors.
GM Chris Antonetti may have been trying to take pressure off of Bauer, and lowering the expectations of fans, who look at the right hander just acquired from Arizona as a savior for the starting rotation.
That, in itself, is not a bad thing.
However, if Bauer pitches well in spring training and is dominant in the exhibition games, don’t think for a moment that Francona isn’t going to push for the kid to come north for Opening Day.
That’s the way is should be. Remember that Charlie Manuel had to lobby hard to keep a 20-year-old left-hander on the big league roster in 2001. C.C. Sabathia did just fine, going 17-5 in his rookie year.
Antonetti has brought in some veterans to compete for roster spot in Arizona, and some of those players are good risks. Ryan Raburn and Ben Francisco could make the team as reserves, and Matt Capps could earn a bullpen spot as well. All three have been good players in the past.
However, if they struggle in spring training and a guy like Tim Fedroff or even Ezequiel Carrera do very well, then Francona and Antonetti should keep the players who earned the spot. Too many times in recent years, the Tribe has kept the veteran who had a marginal spring, and have to release him during the season because he’s not getting the job done.
If a young player out-performs one of these non roster invitees to spring training, they should open the season with the big club.
Although Capps has a much better track record than pitchers like Jamey Wright, Chad Durbin, and Dan Wheeler, here’s hoping he’s not lumped in with them at the end of the season. The latter three were all borderline hurlers, yet the Indians let them make the team and only Durbin lasted an entire season, albeit in a mop up role.
It is our belief that Francona will not let Antonetti bully him on the make up of the roster. Manny Acta seemed to allow the GM to decide what players would make the roster, and Eric Wedge never picked the right team coming out of spring training.
Francona has a great relationship with both Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro, but he also wants to win, and win right away. If he feels a young player is ready to help the Indians win when April 1st comes around, he is going to fight for that guy to make the big club.
That’s just one more change that is going to help the 2013 version of the Cleveland Indians.