GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Guardians’ Opening Day roster is set.
Cleveland made its last few decisions prior to Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Rangers at Surprise Stadium to cut down its Spring Training roster to 28. Guardians manager Terry Francona told outfielder/first baseman Josh Naylor (right ankle) that he’ll be starting the year on the 10-day injured list to get a handful of extra games under his belt in a more controlled environment than the big leagues. That opened a spot for outfield prospect Steven Kwan to make his first Opening Day roster.
“As many tough conversations as we have -- and some of them are really tough -- a couple of them like with Kwan or [Konnor] Pilkington, God dang, man, it can kind of buckle you in a good way,” Francona said.
MLB announced on Thursday that teams will be able to carry 28 players (29 for doubleheaders), up from 26, from Opening Day through May 1. Additionally, there will be no limit on how many pitchers they can carry as part of the expanded 28-man rosters. However, rosters will revert to 26 players with a 13-pitcher maximum on May 2.
The team is young, but it’s ready to use that to its own advantage. Let’s take a look at the final breakdown of Cleveland’s 28-man roster:
Catcher (2): Austin Hedges, Bryan Lavastida
Rather than having Luke Maile on the Opening Day roster, the team will now have to turn to Lavastida, who doesn't yet have any Major League experience. Cleveland signed Maile at the beginning of camp to handle backup duties behind Hedges, but he strained his left hamstring running the bases on March 23 against the Dodgers, and will have to miss the first week or two of the season.
First base (1): Bobby Bradley
Bradley will get the first chance to prove himself as an everyday first baseman. When he needs a day off (or is struggling and the club decides to platoon him), Owen Miller will serve as his backup.
Second base (1): Yu Chang
Instead of keeping the same middle infield duo as last season in Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez, it seems as though Cleveland is looking to add just a little bit of offensive depth to its lineup by moving Rosario to left field, removing Bradley Zimmer or Oscar Mercado from the lineup and making room for Giménez and Chang to play up the middle.
Third base (1): José Ramírez
As if there was any doubt.
Shortstop (1): Andrés Giménez
This is the same situation as second base. Giménez is looking more like the Opening Day shortstop than second baseman, as the club has gotten Rosario more reps in left field. Rosario moved back to shortstop on Friday, but is expected to be back in left field a few more times before the end of camp.
Outfield (5): Myles Straw, Josh Naylor, Bradley Zimmer, Oscar Mercado, Amed Rosario, Steven Kwan
As we discussed above, Naylor will start the year with Triple-A Columbus on a rehab assignment to be able to get a few more games under his belt, considering he was only able to play in three Cactus League games before the team made its decision. However, the Guardians aren’t expecting his stint on the IL to be long (he’ll be eligible to be activated on April 14 -- the day before the home opener). That decision paved a way for Kwan to have the opportunity to prove what he can do at the big league level after catching plenty of attention this spring.
Designated hitter (1): Franmil Reyes
Nothing new to report here.
Utility (2): Owen Miller, Ernie Clement
Sliding Chang to second base frees up a spot for Clement, who could be a super utility player used all around the infield and in the corner outfield spots. The club is looking to try him in a corner at least once before camp breaks to see if he could handle that transition. But with Kwan also on the roster, Clement can provide solid backup options, especially defensively, at second, short and third, while Miller will see some time at first base.
Starting pitchers (5): Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Cal Quantrill, Triston McKenzie
These are the five starters without question. However, as these hurlers are still building up their pitch counts in the early weeks of the regular season following a shortened spring campaign, the club will open with a four-man rotation of Bieber, Plesac, Quantrill and Civale, leaving McKenzie as a piggyback option for one of the games in Kansas City to help eat up innings.
Relievers (9): Emmanuel Clase, Anthony Gose, Nick Sandlin, Trevor Stephan, Bryan Shaw, Sam Hentges, Eli Morgan, Logan Allen, Konnor Pilkington
Because James Karinchak will open the year on the injured list, Pilkington was the next man up to help fill out the Guardians’ bullpen. While nearly every outing of his Minor League career has come as a starter, he’ll be another piggybacking option for the team -- like McKenzie -- to help the starting rotation at the beginning of the season. Clase is primed to return to his closing role and Gose, Sandlin and Shaw will be candidates to fill the setup man position until Karinchak returns.