Indians Opening Day Roster Taking Shape
On Saturday, the Indians made some final decisions in regards to several players who were hoping to make the Tribe’s Opening Day Roster. For two players hoping to make the team, Saturday’s decision was good news, great news even. For two others, finding out that they would not make the team signaled the end of their spring and the start of the next chapter of their 2014 seasons.
For Vinnie Pestano, being named to the Indians Opening Day roster brings his year-long struggle full-circle. Once the Indians primary eighth inning setup man and one of the most dominant relievers in all off baseball, Pestano struggled mightily in 2013. An elbow injury led to decreased velocity and a loss of command. The injury landed Pestano on the DL and ultimately back in Triple-A Columbus.
Adding to Pestano’s struggle was the emergence of both Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw. It was uncertain whether Pestano would be able to land a spot in the Indians bullpen. Ultimately, Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti decided to worry less about roles and more about having quality arms in the pen. No one knows for certain what role Pestano will fill in 2014, but having him in there as an option is better than any of the alternatives.
Meanwhile, Elliot Johnson won his spot on the roster thanks to an impressive spring at the plate and his versatility in the field. Not known for being an offensive powerhouse, his career slash line is only .218/.273/.319, Johnson turned in a remarkable offensive performance throughout the course of spring training with a slash line of .333/.378/.619 in 42 at bats. This unexpected outburst of offensive production was too much for the Indians to ignore.
However, while Johnson’s offensive output has been a nice surprise, his defensive flexibility is the primary reason why he will be on the Tribe’s Opening Day roster. Joshson has the ability to play every position in the field, with the exception of catcher. With Terry Francona, a manager who enjoys implementing different lineups and rotating players in and out of the lineup, having Johnson at his disposal gives him the chance to rest players more often without losing much.
As for the players not making the Indians Opening Day roster, Saturday was the end of the line for both Matt Carson and Jeff Francoeur.
Matt Carson will remain with the Indians for the remainder of spring training and then will report to Triple-A Columbus where he will fill the same role as last season. That being, Carson will provide vertical depth. Should the Indians run into a situation where they need another outfielder, Carson will be there ready and waiting for his opportunity. It will also give Carson the chance to work on his game. This Spring he hit only .242/.342/.394, a far cry from the .636/.692/.909 slash line he posted last September in 13 plate appearances. However, Carson was not expected to make the team so his demotion is not a surprise.
For Jeff Francoeur, this spring was his opportunity to re-establish his value as a major league outfielder. After a couple of tough seasons and bottoming out his career in 2013, Francoeur was looking to catch on with the Indians or do enough to draw interest from other teams. By posting a .286/.359/.429 slash line, it’s safe to say he probably accomplished that goal. Don’t be surprised if the veteran outfielder catches on with another team sometime between now and the start of the season.
So while the Indians made these moves to put themselves one step closer to their final Opening Day roster, they still have a few more moves to make. Those moves are expected to come very soon. The Tribe brass will meet today in order to sort out a few more details, particularly the race for the final spot in the starting rotation. There is a very good chance that we may know who will be the fifth starter or at least who will be removed from the race by the end of the day.