"I know you haven't made your mind up yet"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
We have hit the home stretch here in the first Spring Training camp of the Manny Acta Era, and the Indians still have 38 guys in camp and several jobs undecided.
So, for the sake of clarity…
The last starting spot will go to either David Huff or Carlos Carrasco.
The last two bullpen jobs will go to any two of these three guys: Jensen Lewis, Saul Rivera and Jamey Wright.
The left field job will go to Austin Kearns, Michael Brantley or Trevor Crowe.
The fourth outfielder’s job will go to Kearns or Crowe (Brantley’s going to play every day somewhere).
The utility infield spot will go to Mark Grudzielanek, Anderson Hernandez or Luis Rodriguez.
The other utility infield spot will go to one of those three guys or Andy Marte.
If I had to guess, I’d say your Opening Day roster looks (something) like this:
Starters (5): Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Huff, Mitch Talbot
Relievers (7): Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Aaron Laffey, Joe Smith, Lewis, Wright.
Catchers (2): Lou Marson, Mike Redmond.
Infielders (6): Matt LaPorta, Luis Valbuena, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Marte, Grudzielanek.
Outfielders (4): Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Brantley, Kearns.
Designated Hitter (1): Travis Hafner.
Disabled List (4): Russell Branyan, Jeremy Sowers, Kerry Wood, Anthony Reyes (60-day).
If I’m right, the Indians will have to make roster room for three guys — Wright, Grudzielanek and Kearns. Obviously, they can remove Rule 5 pickup Hector Ambriz. As for the other two spots, well, that’s why Mark Shapiro makes the big bucks.
How accurate are my predictions? We’ll find out Thursday. That’s when Acta is expected to announce the roster.
In the meantime…
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Grudzielanek was a late scratch from today’s lineup because of tightness in his right hamstring. It’s not considered serious, and Acta said it shouldn’t affect Grudzielanek’s standing in the battle for a roster spot. It was Acta who had to talk Grudzielanek out of playing, as a precaution. I listed Grudzielanek above, but Acta also speaks highly of Hernandez. Hard to say which one of those guys gets carried.
- Carrasco was erratic today, walking six guys in 3 2/3 innings. He was a longshot for a rotation job to begin with, pitched his way into consideration and might have pitched his way back to Columbus with this start. It’s up to David Huff to decide. Huff gets the start Wednesday against the White Sox. Full story on Carrasco.
- Acta and the coaching and front office staffs will huddle up after Wednesday’s game to make the final roster decisions.
- Here’s the full story on the Branyan-to-the-DL decision and its implications on the Opening Day roster.
- You know who really stands to benefit from the Branyan decision? Marte. The Indians are going to need somebody to not only back up Peralta at third base but also spell LaPorta at first. LaPorta has come a long way from his October surgeries, but he’s not expected to play seven days a week for at least the first two weeks of the season. Enter Marte, who is, as you know, out of Minor League options. “We’ve taken a long look because he’s out of options,” Acta said. “He brings that above-average defense at first and third. He’s had some good games offensively, too. We’ve seen some progress with him. Now the issue will be whether he can make the adjustment, if he doesn’t make this club as an everyday guy, to sit on the bench for a few games and maintain his hitting approach and give us quality at-bats.”
- What’s playing out under the surface of the Branyan situation is a tell-tale symbol of small-market reality. The fact is that if a big-market ballclub had an opening in left field and a player of Brantley’s pedigree and performance on-hand, he’d probably be assured of the job by now. Not here, necessarily. As I’ve written several times here and elsewhere, one long-term cost benefit to signing Russell Branyan to a one-year, $2 million contract was the year of contractual control of Brantley that the Branyan signing could buy the Tribe down the line. If the Indians can avoid promoting Brantley from Triple-A Columbus until midseason, they can ensure themselves pre-arbitration contractual control of Brantley through 2013, rather than 2012.
- The Branyan injury might not have much impact here, anyway, as the Indians expect to have him back within the first two weeks of the season, barring further setbacks. We’ll see how that goes, but it’s too early to tell how long the guy playing left field on Opening Day will actually be playing there. Even if it is Brantley, he could be sent down in a matter of weeks.
- Still, the fact remains that Brantley had a stellar September and has had a stellar camp, coming into today’s game with a .343 average, .457 slugging percentage and .452 on-base percentage. He feels he deserves the job. “I’ve done everything I need to do,” Brantley said. “I feel like I’ve done a great job. I’ve given 110 percent, I’ve prepared my body and I’m really happy with where I’m at.”
- Brantley was hobbled by a bum ankle for much of 2008 at Double-A Huntsville and 2009 at Columbus. In ’09, he still managed to swipe 46 bags in the Minors and make an immediate impact at the top of the big-league lineup, but he said he played through pain all year. He strengthened the ankle over the winter. “My ankle’s 100 percent,” he said. “I’m so excited about that. I feel I can run again. I always felt I had more to prove. Last year, I was banged up all year. It was a long season and a long grind, but it made me tougher mentally.”
- That mental toughness could come in handy for Brantley later this week, if he gets sent down. And if that happens, then Kearns is the Opening Day left fielder for your Cleveland Indians. Crowe is more of a fourth-outfielder type who could provide speed off the bench.
- So, what about Kearns? He’s here as a non-roster invitee, he has an out clause in his Minor League deal if he’s not on the Opening Day club and he’s batting .308 this spring. The odds of sticking are in his favor, as he could be a serviceable fourth outfielder even if he’s not the left field starter. Acta is a big fan, having managed Kearns in Washington the last three years. “I always liked him, because he’s a pro,” Acta said. “He goes hard every single day. He’s a great teammate. He’s one of those guys that can only help you, when he’s healthy. He’s the ultimate pro.”
- Marson’s status as the starting catcher still hasn’t been officially announced, but that’s coming. What’s a little odd is the sporadic playing time Marson has received in spring camp. Today marked just his ninth start behind the plate. He came in with 21 at-bats. (For the sake of comparison, Shelley Duncan missed a week with an elbow injury and was removed from camp a week ago and nonetheless managed to log 21 at-bats.) “It’s been hard to get in a rhythm,” said Marson, who went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI today to improve his spring average from .190 to .240. You’d have to imagine Acta will ramp up Marson’s participation this final week.
- Talbot and the winner of the battle between Huff and Carrasco for the final rotation spot will not exactly break camp with the club. Both pitchers will remain here in Goodyear to throw against Minor Leaguers on Sunday before joining the Tribe in Chicago.
- The last available reliever listed on the Indians’ roster card today was “CC Lee.” No, that wasn’t some cruel joke about past Cy Young winners. It was short for farmhand Chen-Chang Lee, who came on in the sixth inning.