CLEVELAND -- Entering the 2020 season, Delino DeShields appeared to have a guaranteed spot on the Indians' Opening Day roster, but now he may have to wait a little longer to debut with his new ballclub.
DeShields was placed on the 10-day injured list on Monday afternoon. He reported to Summer Camp on Saturday after missing the first week of practice because he had tested positive for COVID-19. But even though he’s back with the team, the Indians said they’re going to ease him back into activities.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona said DeShields had been limited to light workouts over the past three weeks, including jumping rope at his home. Because of that, it was becoming more unlikely that DeShields would be ready by Opening Day. So, placing him on the injured list seemed inevitable, and making that decision now allows the club to backdate the transaction to July 13, which gives it the freedom to reactivate him early in the season once he’s ready.
The Indians have a crowded outfield to evaluate before the season begins. If DeShields is not ready by Opening Day, that will leave the door open for one of the other nine outfielders on their roster. Oscar Mercado, Franmil Reyes, Domingo Santana and Tyler Naquin appear to be locks to make the team. Jordan Luplow, assuming his sore back doesn’t become more of a problem, would also be a favorite to earn a spot.
If the team carries 15 pitchers, two catchers and six infielders on the expanded 30-man roster to start the season, that leaves seven spots for outfielders. Along with the five locks, the team will have Jake Bauers, Bradley Zimmer, Daniel Johnson and Greg Allen to pick from for the final two outfield vacancies without DeShields in the picture. Let’s take a deeper look at their options:
Johnson has had a strong start to Summer Camp, and he was named the MVP of the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage, which earned him a $100 prize. He has tremendous arm strength and a great bat, but his inexperience may be the reason why the Indians lean in another direction.
Bauers made the transition from primarily being a first baseman to becoming an everyday outfielder when he joined the Indians last year. He’s coming off of a disappointing offensive year where he hit .226 with a .683 OPS, but he felt more confident in his swing entering the 2020 season. He gives the ballclub some versatility with the ability to also play first base, and he could be someone it uses off the bench.
Allen has spent a lot of his career bouncing between the Major League club and the Minors. His defense has improved greatly over his past few seasons with the Indians, but the team will need to see more consistency with his bat for him to earn a more regular role on the big league squad.
“There’s some moving parts in [Allen's] swing and different moving parts from each side of the plate,” Francona said. “And keeping his lower half and his upper half has been a work in progress for him. We’ve seen him from time to time look like, 'OK wow, this is gonna work,' and then lose it. [On Saturday,] seeing those two swings right-handed really made you feel good. I don’t care what time of year it is or what time we’re playing or who we’re playing, those were really good swings.”
That leaves Zimmer. There’s been so much excitement about the future of Zimmer that has been diminished by a plethora of injuries. After missing almost all of 2018 due to right shoulder surgery, Zimmer had to miss nearly the entirety of the '19 season finishing his shoulder rehab and recovering from oblique injuries. The team is still optimistic about what Zimmer can become; however, the Indians have to debate carrying a player who hasn’t been in a regular big league role since 2017.
“There’s some wild cards that make it a little more difficult,” Francona said last week. “Like Bradley Zimmer, a guy that we absolutely love. We love his skill set. The kid hasn’t really basically played much in two years. Are you setting him up to fail if he swings the bat good for a week here, or does it make our team better? Those are all the kinds of questions that we’re going to have to kind of wrestle with as we make our decisions.”