Manager Terry Francona resolved four months of curiosity on Wednesday when he announced the final cuts of players in the Indians’ Summer Camp.
Remaining with the organization, but due to report to Cleveland’s alternate site in Eastlake at Classic Park, home of the Indians’ Class-A Lake County Captains affiliate, were outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers and relievers James Hoyt and Jefry Rodriguez. Reliever Hunter Wood was set to be designated for assignment with the Indians needing to create a 40-man roster spot for utility man Mike Freeman, who made the club.
There were a few surprises on the list on the offensive side of the ball, but maybe less so after seeing how some performed during the Summer Camp portion of spring training 2.0.
The infield was composed exactly as expected. Carlos Santana will be the team’s primary first baseman, with newcomer Cesar Hernandez slotted in at second, and All-Star Francisco Lindor and resurgent Jose Ramirez handling the left side of the infield. Behind the plate, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger Roberto Perez will be backed up by offseason addition Sandy Leon, a switch-hitter.
The fight for the utility role on the club turned out to be no battle at all. All three of the lead candidates made the roster, as Freeman won a role and returns to the Indians dugout for a second season. Christian Arroyo, picked up last season from the Tampa Bay Rays, hit well in camp and earned a spot while also being a player without minor league options remaining. Yu Chang, who did have an option remaining, also made the club, likely due in large part to playing a personal round of Home Run Derby at Progressive Field during Summer Camp.
The outfield also lacked any major surprising news. Oscar Mercado will handle center field once again. The corners will be manned by Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow, Franmil Reyes when not slotted in at designated hitter, and free agent signee Domingo Santana. Joining them will be Greg Allen, who will log time on the Indians roster for a fourth straight season, and Bradley Zimmer, who performed well during camp and has shown himself to be fully healthy for the first time in a long time.
Delino DeShields, who was expected to be a factor in the outfield mix, was placed on the 10-day injured list on July 12 after reporting late to Cleveland following a positive test for COVID-19.
The pitching staff was settled some earlier in the week when Francona announced that Adam Plutko will serve the club out of the bullpen, meaning that Zach Plesac had won the fifth starter spot. Shane Bieber will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Mike Clevinger and staff veteran Carlos Carrasco. Aaron Civale, coming off of an impressive rookie season, will be the fourth man out of the shoot.
The bullpen had some question marks to it and even after the roster was settled, there remains some uncertainty there. Brad Hand returns as the closer as the team hopes his late season arm issues are a thing of the past. Right-hander James Karinchak made the bullpen and is expected to be a late inning flamethrower for Francona’s staff. Returning for middle and late inning work are righties Adam Cimber and Nick Wittgren and lefty Oliver Perez. Phil Maton, a 27-year-old right-hander who pitched nine times for the Tribe in 2019, returns, and Dominic Leone, a 28-year-old six-year veteran righty, also made the bullpen bunch. Cam Hill, a 26-year-old right-hander who was limited to 21 games with Columbus a season ago, will also be on the roster for the first time in his career after being added to the 40-man roster over the winter.
Plutko may serve as a long man as the starters continue to get stretched out.
Emmanuel Clase was expected to pair with Karinchak in the back end of the bullpen, but he was suspended by Major League Baseball in May for 80 games after a positive performance enhancing drug test.
The Indians open the 2020 schedule on Friday night from Progressive Field against the Kansas City Royals to start a six-game homestand.
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