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Spring Training Notebook: Roster takes shape

Hagadone, Kazmir lock up Opening Day spots

Spring Training Notebook: Roster takes shape
March 22, 2013
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There’s less than a week and a half left until the Cleveland Indians open up the 2013 regular season, and it seems as if almost all the puzzle pieces have come together.

It was a busy week for the Indians as the team announced a handful of roster decisions. A number of the previous Spring Training position races now seem to be clear, and we should have a pretty good idea as to what the team’s 25-man roster will look like.

So with that being said, let’s not waste a minute, and let’s look back at the busy week that was…

Player of the Week

Cord Phelps — Utility, 6-for-15, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K.

No official move has been made, but it does appear as if the writing is on the wall for the switch-hitting Phelps. Even though he’s had a tremendous spring season, he seems all but destined to begin the 2013 season back at Triple-A Columbus. In reality, Phelps is a casualty of there being too much of good thing. Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles both have the versatility that Phelps possesses, but Phelps also has one thing that the other players lack — minor league options. While Phelps’ time is not going to come at the start of the season, one has to believe that he could be the first Indian recalled from Columbus if Raburn starts to falter. Phelps has gone 15-for-43 (.349) overall this spring, and it’s clear that the Indians really do like his bat. He’s been unimpressive in two previous stints, but he’s never got a consistent shot. Mark my words, that shot will come sometime this season.

News & notes

— Goodness. Where in the world do we begin? The first big news of the week came on Monday when the Indians announced that neither Daisuke Matsuzaka nor Matt Capps would make the Major League team. Neither one of these moves was necessarily surprising, but it was somewhat surprising to see the response from both players. Matsuzaka has since decided to accept a minor league assignment from the Indians while Capps is weighing his options. Both players had solid camps for the Indians. In eight innings, Matsuzaka posted a 2.25 ERA while Capps posted a 3.60 ERA in five innings of work. The significance of Matsuzaka at Columbus may seem minor, but it really could pay dividends down the road. Do you remember last season and some of the guys the Indians promoted to start games at one point or another? Does Chris Seddon ring a bell? This is not a knock against Seddon, but Matsuzaka will make for a much better option should the Indians need to replace someone in the rotation. As for Capps, time will only tell what the right-hander decides to do. He’s clearly not happy about not making the team, but he’s also clearly not ready. It would be nice to be able to have him as an insurance policy at Triple-A as well.

— Another big bit of news came on Thursday when the Indians reassigned Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Scott Barnes to Columbus. The significance of these moves is that it confirms what most of us already knew: Scott Kazmir has won the fifth starter’s job and Nick Hagadone will join Rich Hill as the other left-handed reliever in the bullpen. From the start of Spring Training, it seemed as if Bauer was a long shot to make the Major League roster, and that thought has now been proven. The much-heralded prospect posted a 4.50 ERA with nine strikeouts and four walks in 14 innings this spring. He certainly was impressive at times, but it was also evident that he really needed to work on his command. Triple-A should afford him that opportunity, and it probably will not be too long until we see him make his Major League debut.

— Hagadone definitely deserves the other left-handed spot in the bullpen, especially after he had a 0.00 ERA and struck out 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings this spring. However, perhaps the more interesting question is what exactly happens with Barnes? In 6 1/3 innings this spring, Barnes posted a 2.84 ERA with seven strikeouts and two walks. While he was not as impressive as Hagadone, he was impressive nonetheless, and it’s somewhat of a shame that both relievers did not make this year’s team. It appears as if the Indians are committed to now developing Barnes as a reliever, and his deceptive delivery certainly suits him well in that role. Still, wouldn’t now be a good time to at least see if he can still develop as a starter? If a need arose in Cleveland, it probably would not be hard for Barnes to move out of a starting role and back into the bullpen. There’s been no indication that this is a proposition that the Indians plan to entertain, but it would be nice if the team decided to go this route.

— One player who remains on the Indians’ Spring Training roster is first baseman Chris McGuiness. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Rule 5 selection will be offered back to the Texas Rangers. He’s been somewhat unimpressive this spring as he’s gone just 6-for-37 in 21 games. Regardless, you have to feel for this kid. Imagine the pressure that he’s under right now. McGuiness has never played above the Double-A level, yet he entered Spring Training with the distinct possibility that he could make the Opening Day roster of a Major League ball club. You have to believe that his stomach has been filled with butterflies on a number of games this spring, and it’s easy to see why. He’s not going to make the Indians’ Opening Day roster, but the fact that he’s still on the Indians’ roster at this point is telling. It would appear as if there could be a deal in the works between the Rangers and Indians, which would result in McGuiness staying with the Tribe. Perhaps this is not the case, but then why would he still be in camp? The answer to this question will probably be answered sooner rather than later.

— In his last two spring outings, Ubaldo Jimenez has gone at least five innings, allowed two earned runs and walked a total of just one batter. For the entire spring season, he has a 4.91 ERA in 18 1/3 innings of work, while striking out 14 and walking just three. Not everything has been perfect as he’s also hit two batters and recorded two wild pitches, but it’s somewhat troubling to see so many fans still down on Jimenez. Yes, his velocity is down. Yes, he’s allowed a lot of hits. Yes, he still seems to mentally lose it at times. But he’s also walking far fewer batters. There’s no reason to believe that he can be the great pitcher that he once was in Colorado, but the lower number of walks do indicate that he can be a better pitcher this season. That’s not saying he’ll even be a good pitcher, but he should be better, and that’s a start. After the debacle of last year, the Indians can take all the improvement they can get when it comes to the pitching department.

— As stated earlier, it appears as if Kazmir has earned a spot in the Indians’ rotation, but Carlos Carrasco is still in camp with the Major League club. Carrasco been less than stellar this spring as the right-hander has a 6.00 ERA in 18 innings of work. It seems highly unlikely that he has a legitimate shot to make the team’s rotation, but it does seem as if he could have a chance to make that Opening Day roster. That statement may seem peculiar as Carrasco is obviously only going to have a role on this team as a starting pitcher. However, it’s entirely possible that he starts in Cleveland just so he can serve the six-game suspension from 2011. This may be looked at as a cheap tactic, but it’s one that the Indians could and should consider using.

Quick hits

— In eight games for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, catcher Carlos Santana went 6-for-22 with two home runs, one double, three RBI, five runs and nine walks. I’m sure it gave Santana great pleasure to play a key role in his home country winning the WBC. Also, it’s nice to see that Santana played so well. I enjoyed the WBC and while I understand some of the detractors’ points, ask yourself this: Where in Spring Training can a player get at-bats more meaningful than the ones Santana took part in during the WBC? The answer? No where.

— One other name that has been interesting this spring is Jerry Gil. The right-hander was informed Thursday that he’ll start the season in Columbus, and everyone definitely saw that coming. Still, his performance has been impressive as he has posted a 2.57 ERA in seven innings of work. He has an absolute rocket for an arm, and he’s actually only been pitching for a few years as he first cracked the Majors as a shortstop. There’s no telling if he’ll actually get a look this season, and it could be unlikely given the number of high-quality relievers in the Indians’ system. Still, Gil and his live fastball are enough to make him a more than worthy minor league signing.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

User Comments

Jwahoo
March 24, 2013 - 2:08 PM EDT
@ ED but you can "plug" someone in vs tough RP. Giambi can move to DH, Reynolds to 1B and Swisher to RF. I think your point about the defense of the team being weakned is a very valid one. But, I think in the end Giambi brings more to the team in terms of leadership. I think Chord Phelps might be the guy when all is said and done. He is the only one with the upside to really have a future here and he is a switch hiter. Defense will still be weaker but nothing we can't overcome.

Like you said Raburn will also see time in the outfield. Anyway, I think whoever gets the job will not get too much playing time. Of course alot of that depends on Stubbs. If he struggles and Giambi struggles then they may have to go and bring in someone else.
Tony
March 24, 2013 - 12:31 AM EDT
Not sure I get the haggling back and forth. If a tough right-hander is on the mound, then the Indians will probably sit Stubbs and Reynolds and put Swisher in RF and Giambi at 1B. They can piece together who is the DH. I have no problem with that, at least at the outset of the season until things play out.
Ed (posted as anon)
March 23, 2013 - 3:54 PM EDT
@Jwahoo

You missed my point. We have a rightfielder in Stubbs who is notoriously weak against RHP. By not carrying a guy you can plug in against tough pitching RHP you potentially weaken yourself defensively by having to move Swisher back-and-forth between 1B and RF and Reynolds to 1B from DH. Or will we have to cross our fingers and have Raburn be the 4th outfielder?

That's all I said. No one is questioning Gianbi's leadership and career. I respect that. He is, however, 42 and the last 3 seasons are what they are. Let's return to the issue say in May or June and see what has happened.
Jwahoo
March 23, 2013 - 2:29 PM EDT
Barnes future is in the bullpen. Part of the reason he has looked so good is because of the move to the bullpen where he stuff plays better. Its worked why would they move him back to the rotation when they obviously think his future in the bullpen.

Anyway, its not going to happen so we might as well stop talking about it.

@ Tex. Kazmir for Mcguiness? Really? I mean really?

@anon. Your worried about having Giambi on the roster because of losing Zeke? Zeke is a solid 4th outfield guy. We are trying to win this year. Giambi helps everyone on the team by taking on the pressure of leading. His bat is also respected even if its not anywhere near what it used to be. Respect. Giambi has earned it.
Tony
March 23, 2013 - 12:51 AM EDT
You know what, being out here in AZ and talking to people and seeing things first hand.....I love having Giambi on the team. I am all for it now. He's essentially a player-coach and the 25th guy on the roster, a spot rarely used anyway. I'm fine with seeing what happens over the first two months and letting him play against some right-handers to sit Reynolds from time to time. He's just an amazing leader and has really taken a lot of the leadership responsibilities on the team.
Tony
March 23, 2013 - 12:49 AM EDT
Tex, you think McGuiness is more valuable at this point than Kazmir?

McGuiness is not a MLer right now. Talked to a scout and he said he has no business being in the big leagues right now. Doesn't play defense consistently enough and the bat is middling at best.
anonymous
March 22, 2013 - 8:45 PM EDT
I'm wondering what the thinking is on keeping Giambi. Given Stubbs' problems with RHP it'd seem a LH-hitting 4th outfielder would help more than Giambi which would require you move Swisher to RF and Reynolds to 1B against tough RHP. I'd hate to lose a still-young speedster like Carrera to keep Giambi for what might only be a few weeks.
Tex
March 22, 2013 - 8:02 PM EDT
Why not get one start from Kazmir then flip him to TEX for McGuiness while Carrassco serves? Then put McGuiness in AAA and call up a rp?
troy
March 22, 2013 - 7:39 PM EDT
Stick a fork in Ubaldo. He is done here in Cleveland. I expect him to be released by memorial day
shy
March 22, 2013 - 4:57 PM EDT
Kazmir has pitched as well as any starter this Spring, on the Indians that's not saying much. He has shown the command, the deception and late movement that made him a force early in his major league career and he's still under 30.. If he can maintain his confidence and health, he could be one of the fun stories in baseball this year. I don't see any good stories for Masterson- he really has trouble putting 7 dominant innings together, let alone 3-4 consecutive starts. Wildbaldo is in the bottom 10% of AL starters with over 200 innings pitched in WHIP and ERA past 2 seasons combined. He does have the dubious distinction of leading the league in wild pitches and hit batsmen combined. Let's see now how many pitching coaches? That would be 4- Belcher, Radinsky, Niebla and now Calloway. And 42 starts over that period, nice big sample size. To expect him to be different going forward JWahoo is--- what did Einstein and Bill W say? I saw him pitch against Tim Lincecum 3 years ago. He was 97- whether it was drugs or whatever I don't know, but he is no longer a dependable major league starter on any kind of contending team, he's the kinda trainwreck the national media would expect to see only in Cleveland, now that the Fausto man is gone. Brett Myers and Zack McCallister are dependably fair to middlin' which may be ok if this team scores the runs when they pitch. All in all the starting rotation remains the Indians biggest weakness. BTW, I heard today Hector Rondon is making the Cubs opening day roster. Good pitcher/good man, hope he can stay healthy.
Joe
March 22, 2013 - 4:43 PM EDT
I have stated before,I like the idea of Barnes being stretched out to start at AAA. He has had some success in that role before, and if he can replicate it, we could have some help going forward there. If the trial fails, he can still be moved back as a reliever. I believe they have to look at all their options at this time of year to have a better idea what they have moving forward. It's all about options, especially when it comes to pitching.
Jwahoo
March 22, 2013 - 3:21 PM EDT
@ Speak for yourself.

Would I rather have a Laffy or Sowers or a solid lefty in the back end of the bullpen able to pitch multiple innings? Your thinking is flawed. You assume that every pitcher who does well in the bullpen must be a hidden gem just waiting to be moved to the rotation. Wrong. Most of these guys HAVE pitched in the rotation and were moved to the bullpen because of organizational need and because it was determined their stuff would play better there. Guess what? It worked with Scott Barnes.

He was moved to the bullpen for a reason. Why put him back into the rotation? Next time you try and move him back to the bullpen he might not have the same outlook or success. What are you going to do? Move him to the rotation? Have him not do as well and move him back to the bullpen? Have him do really well and move him back to the rotation? Have him not do so well and then move him back to the bullpen? And on and on and on.


Tony, may have said that. But I find it hard to believe he would want Barnes moved back to the rotation when his future is obviously in the bullpen.
jwahoo
March 22, 2013 - 3:12 PM EDT
@ Matthew

Pretty cheap jab. Why do you think I asked? I mean.... nevermind not worth it.

McGuiness was of value because he is a better prospect than any of those guys you mention. It was reach to think he would be ready now.

You ever think that maybe Ubaldo might stop over thinking and pitch better if he didn't feel like every fan in the baalpark was just waiting for him to implode? The point is he is pitching better and we should support him because its in our best interest. The only reason not to would be so you can go on "Clevelandlive" and tell everyone I told you so.
Adam
March 22, 2013 - 2:42 PM EDT
Capps was not 100% healthy at the start of camp and despite his ERA he still looks like he has some catching up to do. If he accepts the assignment to AAA it'll be a good thing for us and for him, if not there's nothing really lost on our end.

Would I rather have a BOR LH starter or a LH middle reliever? Starter, any day of the week. As Steve stated in the article, it's easier to convert from SP to RP if the need arises, but it takes time to stretch out from RP to SP if a string of injuries occur in the rotation.
Matthew
March 22, 2013 - 2:40 PM EDT
jwahoo, you can't scout a box score. His delivery looked labored, his stuff was pretty weak, and his command was very, very inconsistent. He's clearly not back to 100%.

On another note, I don't think I understand why McGuiness would be of any value to us. I understood the selection when we made it, but since then we have added Reynolds and Swisher. With McDade, Aguilar, and Chen all still at AA/AAA I just don't understand where McGuiness fits in.

Finally, the reason fans are so down on Ubaldo is because he has been an utter disaster while pitching for the Tribe. No amount of mediocre Spring training games is going to change that. He needs to deliver on the major league level before fans will give him a break. And that's not unreasonable.
jwahoo
March 22, 2013 - 2:01 PM EDT
Why is it "clear" Matt Capps was not ready to make the team? His ERA was fine, was there something else going on? Relief pitchers recover and revert back to past success all the time. Raffy B is a great Closer in the thin air of Denver now. So, I really hope he sticks around for awhile.

Scott Barnes has found his groove as a RP. After watching so many young lefties fail here. Would you rather have another fringe back of the rotation starter or a top notch young lefty in your bullpen? I understand what your saying but I think they are committed to him as a future part of the MLB bullpen.

Hundred percent agree about Ubaldo. It actually kinda ticks me off.

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