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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | October 31, 2014

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Bench Battles Rage To The Last Days Of Camp

By Christian Petrila

With Spring Training winding down, there are still plenty of battles going on. Chisenhall’s demotion to AAA all but solidifies Hannahan’s spot at third base, but other than that, there isn’t much certainty. Instead, it’s all speculation. However, a battle that should not be overlooked is the one for the bench spots. It’s pretty safe to assume that two will go to Lou Marson and Jason Donald. However, here are the candidates for the other two spots:

Andy LaRoche is the first candidate. LaRoche is one of the many non-roster invites who is emerging as a favorite for one of the bench roles. Through 14 games this spring, he has the highest batting average on the entire team, hitting .391. He has also shown great patience, striking out only four times while drawing just as many walks. Not only that, but he has also stolen two bases, which is tied for the team lead. LaRoche’s performance this spring has given him the inside track for possibly nabbing one of those bench spots.

Another non-roster invite that could crack the roster is Jose Lopez. The former Rockie and Mariner is hitting a solid .317 with seven RBI and two absolute moonshots. He and LaRoche are the main competitors for one of those bench spots. He has only struck out three times through 41 at-bats. That kind of patience is definitely helping his cause. The decision between LaRoche and Lopez is a tough one, but the slight edge has to go to LaRoche right now.

The leading candidate for the other bench spot is Aaron Cunningham. Not only is he out of minor league options, but he also plays center field. His .216 batting average could definitely use some improvement, but he has only struck out three times in 37 at-bats. He only has one RBI this spring, but his versatility in the outfield has to be the primary reason he’s the lead candidate.

Felix Pie was invited to compete for one of the outfield spots. While his spring hasn’t necessarily been disappointing, it certainly hasn’t been enough to win over the front office. He is hitting .231, the highest among all the outfield competitors. However, his drawback is the lack of versatility. While Cunningham can essentially play all outfield positions, Pie is really limited to left field.

Fred Lewis had low standards coming in to spring, and that’s a good thing. He has only played in nine games and he is only hitting .200. Not only that, but eight of his 15 at-bats have ended with him striking out. The entire spring has been a struggle for Lewis, so it looks like his brief stint inClevelandwas exactly that- brief.

The big disappointment of the spring could be Ryan Spilborghs. He was one of the bigger signings for the Indians in the offseason, but he hasn’t panned out. Through 17 games, he is hitting a dismal .167. A quarter of his 36 at-bats have ended with him striking out. He does have four RBI, but at this point, that’s far from enough to get him a bench role.

Two bench spots, six competitors. However, there are really only three competitors since the other three didn’t have productive enough springs to really be given serious consideration. The winners, in my opinion, are LaRoche and Cunningham. Time will tell if they are, indeed, the winners of the last two spots.

Photo: Associated Press