The first week of exhibition play has come and gone, and there haven’t been many surprises for the Cleveland Indians.
As we said coming into spring training, it didn’t appear the Tribe had many open spots on the Opening Day roster, although it looks like two openings have been created since the beginning of camp.
Nick Swisher, recovering from an operation on both knees late last season, hasn’t played in an exhibition game as of yet, and it would seem he is doubtful to be with the team in Houston on April 6th.
That would seem to put Brandon Moss, recovering from hip surgery, in the DH role to start the season, with David Murphy getting the bulk of the time in RF.
And since the Tribe doesn’t need a fifth starter for the first two weeks of the season, meaning Terry Francona can still have eight relief pitchers on a 12 man pitching staff, that would leave an extra spot for a position player, because Tito can carry four bench players.
Three of those spots will be taken by reserve catcher Roberto Perez, Mike Aviles, who can play virtually everywhere, and Ryan Raburn, who is off to a good start in Arizona.
The early favorites for that spot would seem to be two right-handed bats, important because the Indians are a left-handed dominant batting order.
Those two players would be OF Tyler Holt and 1B/DH Jesus Aguilar.
Holt can play all three outfield spots, and play them well, and spent the last six weeks of the season on the big club in 2014, hitting .268 in 71 at bats. He has gone 5 for 11 with three walks to date.
Aguilar struggled in camp last spring after a dominant winter league season, but this year is off to a good start, going 5 for 10 with only one strikeout thus far.
Another candidate would be switch-hitter Zach Walters, but he is off to a slow start, striking out four times in 10 at bats with just two hits. Contact was a huge problem last season for Walters after he came over from Washington in the Asdrubal Cabrera deal.
Pitching wise, a spot opened when Gavin Floyd re-injured his right elbow.
Francona has three starters etched in stone with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. That leaves the fourth spot to be fought for among Danny Salazar, T. J. House, Josh Tomlin, Bruce Chen, and Shawn Marcum.
We leave Zach McAllister out of this conversation because we feel he will take one of the bullpen spots that are available, based on his performance in that role late last season.
Salazar would seem to be the favorite, but he has struggled in his first two starts, allowing five hits and three walks in 3-2/3 innings.
House would appear to be next man up based on how he pitched last season, but keep an eye on Marcum, who has won 58 games in the majors, and won 13 games in both 2010 and 2011.
If Salazar continues to struggle with his command, we wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t travel north with the major league team.
We realize that there is still plenty of time for more players to impress the management. However, if you don’t have a proven track record, a couple of bad weeks in spring training can cost a player a big league roster spot.