As spring training wrapped up its final weekend in Arizona and Florida, the Cleveland Indians were busy working to finalize their 25-man roster to open the season. One big decision was made by the club on Sunday, as outfielder Austin Jackson has won an opportunity to start the season with the Indians.
The Indians announced several other moves in a press release early Sunday afternoon when several players were optioned or reassigned to minor league camp while four more non-roster invitees found out that they would not be on the roster to start Opening Day.
Jackson, who had an opt out in his minor league contract signed with the Tribe earlier in the offseason, was the biggest news of the day as he was informed that, barring injury, he would open the season with the club. He becomes another name in a crowded outfield for the Indians, where Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Brandon Guyer were already penciled in to spots on the lineup card. Jackson provides manager Terry Francona with extra security in the event that Brantley and Chisenhall are not ready to start the season on the roster while returning from injury, while it leaves the status of Abraham Almonte a question mark. Almonte has had a good spring himself, hitting .378 with three doubles, two homers, and ten RBI.
The 30-year-old right-handed hitting Jackson is coming off of an injury-shortened 2016 season with the Chicago White Sox. He appeared in just 54 games in his lone season on the southside of Chicago after spending the second half of the 2015 season with the Cubs. He hit .254 in his partial season with 12 doubles, two triples, and 18 RBI before being shut down in June with a torn meniscus. He underwent surgery to remove a portion of the medial meniscus later that month, but a slow recovery from the procedure kept him from returning to the White Sox lineup before the season ended.
He will make $1.5 million as a member of the Indians roster. The contract features $4 million in potential incentives and comes one season after signing a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox.
The move on Clevinger was a formality, as the crowded Indians rotation provided him with no place to pitch and the organization would prefer to keep him stretched out in the Clippers rotation in the event that they need a starter at some point throughout the season. He was 3-3 with a 5.26 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in his rookie season for the Indians last year, making ten starts and seven relief appearances over the course of the season.
Colon was in the crowded mix for the final bullpen spot on the roster, but had pitched poorly in five outings this spring. He had worked five innings with a loss to his credit, giving up eleven runs (19.80 ERA) on ten hits with just two strikeouts and five walks. Three of his ten hits allowed left the yard as opposing hitters had batted .400 off of him.
The veteran Moore had a good spring camp and will return to Columbus to serve as the Clippers catcher. He hit .375 in 15 games for the Indians in Arizona with a double, three homers, and eight RBI.
Shaffer, who was well traveled in the offseason from waiver wire to waiver wire, appeared in 25 games for Cleveland this spring and hit .263 with five doubles, four homers, and nine RBI. While he was tied for the team lead in at bats in camp, he was also tops in strikeouts with 22.
Zimmer impressed during his time with the club, slashing .358/.424/.660 over 23 games during camp. The 24-year-old had five doubles, a triple, three homers, and a team-leading 14 RBI to his credit. He will head back to Columbus to start the 2017 season where his 2016 season ended after appearing in 37 games for the Clippers while hitting .242 with five doubles, a homer, and nine RBI. He was named an Eastern League All-Star with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks in the first half of the year.
The Indians also informed first baseman Chris Colabello, catcher Erik Kratz, left-handed reliever Tyler Olson, and utility man Daniel Robertson that they will not make the Opening Day roster. The four will remain in big league camp for the time being.
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