Indians Wild Card Roster May Have Unique Formation
Mike B. | On 30, Sep 2013
Now that the champagne has stopped pouring and the celebration has subsided, the Indians have a winner-take-all, elimination game on Wednesday against the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers to prepare for. The two teams face off tonight in Arlington, Texas. The winner will advance to Progressive Field for Wednesday night’s Wild Card game.
One of the loopholes in the one-game Wild Card playoff is that Major League Baseball considers it its own round of playoffs, meaning teams can set their roster for the game as they wish, then if they advance, reset their roster for the Divisional Series.
With that in mind, Cleveland likely will have a little different 25-man roster for Wednesday’s game than what most are used to. The Indians aren’t building a roster for a playoff series, they are building one to win a game Wednesday night.
Regardless of circumstance, it is a certainty Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Mike Aviles, Lonnie Chisenhall, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi will all be on the roster. Assuming Michael Bourn’s leg issue that caused him to leave the game Sunday in the ninth inning is sound, he also will be on the roster. That’s a certain 12 position players.
The pitching side of things could be a little more of a question. Starting pitcher Danny Salazar will be on the roster, along with bullpen arms Justin Masterson, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Marc Rzepczynski and Matt Albers. Despite his struggles, left-hander Rich Hill will likely be on the roster because having just one matchup left-hander out of the bullpen in a win-or-go-home game seems risky.
Starters Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber will be fully rested and could actually start had Indians manager Terry Francona elected to give them the ball. They’ll likely be on the roster in case something unforeseen happens early and they are needed for long relief.
At this point, that’s 22 players to likely fill the 25-man roster on Wednesday for the Wild Card game. Scott Kazmir will have three day’s rest from his start on Saturday. He could be a third left-hander in the bullpen. If the Indians advance to the Divisional Series, Kazmir could be in line for a start. He’s not a certainty to be on the roster, but considering the Tribe’s weakness on the left side of their bullpen he is a good option.
That’s only two open spots remaining on the roster with several possibilities.
Ubaldo Jimenez will possibly be left off Wednesday’s roster. After 106 pitches on Sunday afternoon, he wouldn’t have much more than an inning available. Considering Jimenez’s history of control issues, asking him to pitch on short rest seems like a large risk to take. He probably is the Game One starter in Boston on Friday night if the Indians advance.
Cleveland has used both Gomes and Santana regularly during their September run. They could consider carrying Kelly Shoppach so that if the team endured an injury to one of their catchers they would not lose the designated hitter in the lineup. Matt Carson remains a roster option as a defensive replacement for Raburn and his ailing achilles or if Bourn’s injury lingers. Shoppach, Carson or maybe Jose Ramirez gets one of the two remaining spots.
With 11 pitchers already on the roster, if one of the two final spots goes to a position player, the final spot would probably go to the 12th pitcher. Carlos Carrasco has pitched out of the bullpen in September, but has not pitched in high pressure situations. Carrasco’s mental toughness is always a question, so he is not a likely selection.
Along the same lines of mental toughness and confidence, the Indians biggest decision in forming their roster may revolve around former closer Chris Perez. Perez nearly blew Thursday night’s 6-5 win in Minnesota and confessed to Francona that he did not want to hurt the team. Not just do the Indians seem to have lost faith in Perez, but Perez has lost faith in himself. How does someone like that fit in a game like Wednesday’s? There doesn’t seem a reasonable role that Perez could fill, so why have him on the roster?
That leaves the 12th pitcher’s spot likely available to a surprise player like C.C. Lee, who was used in a pressure situation on Friday, or Nick Hagadone. Lee seems like the more probable selection of the two. Hagadone has not pitched in game action since Sept. 18 and has been inconsistent all season.
Cleveland won’t announce their roster until at least Tuesday after they know their opponent, but their decisions in selecting the 25 best players to win and advance on Wednesday might not be as easy a decision as most believe.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images