Aug 21, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn (24) celebrates with designated hitter Jason Giambi (25) at the end of the game against the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium. The Indians defeated the Angels 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Early Season Roster Crunch Is Coming


Changes to Roster are Inevitable With Bourn And Giambi Set to Return

Heading into Sunday, the Indians are performing pretty well, winning three of their first five games. The pitching staff has been struggling, with only Justin Masterson reaching at least six innings (he tossed seven scoreless on Opening Day), luckily for Terry Francona, his eight-man bullpen was around to provide, pardon the pun, relief. Carlos Santana‘s .833 fielding percentage at third base isn’t fantastic, but he has only had six chances. Regardless, there are still over 150 games left to play, so there isn’t anything to get too worked up about…yet.

However, over the next several days, the makeup of the roster could change quite a bit. Both Michael Bourn and Jason Giambi will be completing their rehab assignments and roster spots will be needed upon their activation from the disabled list.

So, with just 25 men allowed on the roster, how are the Cleveland Indians going to manipulate those spots with the impending returns of Giambi and Bourn?

It may be easy to say that someone from the bullpen could be removed from the roster. Who is it, though? Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, or Scott Atchison? Carlos Carrasco is safe in the rotation thanks to being out of options, and if he were to be removed from the rotation, the club would move him to the bullpen, rather than risk losing him on waivers.

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Jun 18, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano (52) against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Cleveland won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

What about the rest of the roster? Lonnie Chisenhall has performed pretty well in his first few games, and he is the only true third baseman on the roster – no offense to Santana, but it isn’t his natural position. Mike Aviles is the club’s super utility player who can handle second, third, and short. Nyjer Morgan has been tremendous filling in for Bourn and he can handle all three outfield positions. Elliot Johnson has tremendous versatility, but his bat has long been questionable (.588 career OPS).

Our favorite resident Tampa Bay Rays fan and Wahoo’s on First Writer, Steve Kinsella, took time to explain how players with five years of experience (Atchison, Aviles, Johnson, Morgan) have the right to refuse an assignment to the minors, while also stating how Blake Wood and Pestano still have options remaining. Steve and the staff have long had email discussions regarding the importance of depth, with Steve’s focus on “vertical depth” becoming something that the Indians have long needed.

It appears that the Indians finally have that vertical depth, and the difficulty in future moves will become enhanced due to the club likely cutting ties or demoting a player that is well-liked or, potentially, performing well. With Mark Lowe, Trevor Bauer, C.C. Lee, Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone, Shaun Marcum, and Josh Tomlin waiting for an opportunity in Triple-A Columbus, the Indians certainly have the depth to overcome an injury or two on the pitching staff. With Bourn and Giambi coming back, though, it looks like Francona will have to settle for a seven-man bullpen, while likely losing Pestano, who has already had two appearances that he has been scored upon in two attempts, via a demotion. The bench will likely lose Elliot Johnson or Nyjer Morgan, with Morgan being difficult to swallow given his success and outfield versatility. With Michael Brantley capable of playing center (despite looking lost) and David Murphy and Ryan Raburn around, Elliot Johnson’s ability to play the infield and the outfield makes him a more useful bench piece – as long as he isn’t playing every day.

In cases like this, you don’t really want the job of a general manager. Sending a player who has proven himself useful at one time or another has to be very difficult, but it is quite encouraging that the team, on paper, will be stronger after losing two of the current 25 players from the current roster.

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Tags: Cleveland Indians Jason Giambi Michael Bourn