The exhibition season for the Cleveland Indians starts next week, but there really aren’t that many decisions for Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti to make in terms of who will make the Opening Day roster.
It’s another reason it should be a good season for the Tribe.
The biggest decision for Francona is deciding whether or not he is going to carry 12 pitchers, or have an eight man bullpen.
If he keeps 13 hurlers, then the three position player reserve spots will go to Mike Aviles, Roberto Perez, and Ryan Raburn or David Murphy, unless the latter is moved during camp. This, of course, assumes that Nick Swisher and Brandon Moss are healthy and ready to go.
The only reason Murphy is still here is insurance in case Moss and/or Swisher aren’t ready to play in April, otherwise, the fact that Raburn hits right-handed, virtually assures he will make the team unless he has a disastrous spring.
If Tito keeps just 12 pitchers, then you may see Zach Walters, who can play both infield and outfield could stick. Or you may see another right-handed bat, like Jesus Aguilar come up with the team.
Either way, at bats will be limited for Murphy and that’s why he’s expected to be elsewhere come April.
As for the pitching staff, the only question in the starting rotation will be is Gavin Floyd’s health. If he is ready, he will take a spot along with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar.
If not, then T.J. House, Josh Tomlin, and Zach McAllister will battle for the open slot as a starter.
In a seven man bullpen, we know that barring an injury, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, ageless Scott Atchison, and Mark Rzepczynski are shoo-ins, and you can probably put another lefty, Nick Hagadone, in that class too as he is out of options.
That leaves two spots open and if McAllister isn’t in the rotation, he will be in the ‘pen because he is also out of options and the Tribe doesn’t want to lose his arm. Plus, he performed very well in relief last September.
That would leave the last opening to be a fight between holdovers Kyle Crockett, C.C. Lee, and non-roster invitees Bruce Chen, Scott Downs, and Anthony Swarzak.
Obviously, if Francona keeps eight relievers, then there are two spots open for those guys.
Swarzak is a name to keep an eye on. He’s 29 years old and just two years removed from a season in which he had a 2.91 ERA for the Twins in 96 innings. He and McAllister, if he’s in relief, are capable of giving Tito multiple innings out of the bullpen, as both guys have been starters.
And we know Francona likes to use his relief corps.
The main point here is that’s the only “drama” in camp, the first 21-22 players are pretty much etched in stone, and all the Tribe is looking for is who will fill out the last spot on the bench and in the bullpen.
After years when you are trying to figure out a third of the lineup and half the rotation, it makes for a much more relaxing spring training for Francona and the front office.
Any roster surprises would only occur if one of the players coming back from injury (Swisher, Moss, Floyd) aren’t ready to go.