It is tough to know how rosters will be handled during this bizarre 2020 season, and the Indians is already in flux.
Prior to the team’s season opener on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals, the Cleveland Indians announced that outfielder Daniel Johnson was being recalled from the team’s Alternate Training Site in Eastlake. A corresponding roster move was not needed to create a roster spot, as fifth starter Zach Plesac has not formally been added to the 30-man roster.
The Indians will have to make a move on Tuesday to add Plesac to the club’s roster prior to his start against the Chicago White Sox.
The addition of Johnson became necessary due to an unfortunate turn of events earlier in the week for fellow outfielder Tyler Naquin. Returning after September surgery to repair a torn ACL, Naquin suffered a right big toe contusion after fouling a ball off of his foot in Monday’s exhibition game with Pittsburgh at Progressive Field. The injury kept him out of the team’s intrasquad game on Tuesday and Wednesday’s exhibition with the Pirates.
Naquin has since had the big toe drained in order to aid in a quicker recovery.
“I haven’t ever been through childbirth, but that’s the way he explained it,” said manager Terry Francona on Thursday about Naquin’s status. “I’m not sure how he would know that, but I don’t think it was probably a whole lot of fun. But I think he’s okay. He’s a pretty tough kid.”
With Plesac not due to be called up until Tuesday, Johnson’s recall provides the Indians with more depth and a little extra time to evaluate Naquin’s status while avoiding an injured list stint that may not have been necessary. However, if it appears that he will need additional time to recover than the next five days, an injured list trip could still be possible.
Johnson looks like he has the makings of being a steal for the Tribe. The centerpiece of the November 2018 trade with the Washington Nationals, Johnson came to Cleveland along with pitcher Jefry Rodriguez and infielder Andruw Monasterio for All-Star catcher Yan Gomes. Johnson began his first year in the Indians organization at Double-A Akron, slashing .253/.337/.534 in 39 games with seven doubles, two triples, ten homers, and 33 RBI before a promotion to Columbus. There, he worked in 84 games in his first professional action at the Triple-A level, posting an impressive .306/.371/.496 line with 27 doubles, five triples, nine homers, and 44 RBI. He represented the Indians in the All-Star Futures Game at Progressive Field in July and was named an organizational All-Star following the season.
Johnson spent a part of the offseason playing winter ball in the Dominican Winter League, playing in 25 games for the Leones del Escogido squad in Santo Domingo. A 2016 fifth round pick by Washington, the left-handed hitting is capable of playing all three outfield spots, although the bulk of that work has come in right field. He celebrated his 25th birthday earlier this month.
Ahead of his potential Major League debut, the rookie Johnson will switch from the number 71 that he wore in camp with the Tribe to the far more traditional number 23.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images