GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It’s been two weeks since the Indians held their first full-squad workout, and although manager Terry Francona has said it’s too early to make decisions, there are a few things we’ve learned in this short period. Here are five:
Expect at least one non-roster invitee to make the team
Cleveland has a history with adding Spring Training non-roster invitees to the team’s Opening day roster, and Francona doesn’t think 2019 will be any different. The Indians have a few veteran names to choose from, including right-handers Tyler Clippard, Alex Wilson and A.J. Cole, infielder Ryan Flaherty, outfielder Matt Joyce and designated hitter/first baseman Hanley Ramirez.
The top three names to watch from that list will be Clippard, Wilson and Ramirez. Clippard and Wilson have proven themselves as durable, consistent relievers who are willing to pitch in any situation. Both could make a big impact in the Tribe’s bullpen in 2019.
The Indians are hoping Ramirez can earn his a spot on the club by the end of Spring Training. The 14-year veteran hasn’t played in a Major League game since last April, but if Ramirez can prove he still can produce at the plate, Cleveland will have potentially secured the missing power bat from its lineup with very little risk.
Bauers and Naquin in the corners?
If Ramirez is able to secure the DH spot, then Carlos Santana would likely take the first-base job and Bauers would be moved to left field to keep his bat in the lineup. Assuming Ramirez has a successful spring, this could be the club’s strongest lineup.
Rotation is intact and the closer has been named
After an offseason full of trade rumors surrounding Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, the Indians’ rotation remains intact. Kluber placed third in voting for the 2018 American League Cy Young Award, Bauer improved his changeup over the offseason and Shane Bieber now has a year of experience under his belt, which could lead to an even more dominant Cleveland staff than in years past.
Jason Kipnis, 2B: At the end of 2018, Kipnis had made the move to the outfield, but Francona informed him at the beginning of camp that he will be back in the infield in 2019.
Francisco Lindor, SS: Despite the right calf strain, the Indians remain positive that Lindor will be back in time for Opening Day. If not, it won’t be long after that until he returns.
Zimmer has looked good while taking batting practice on the field, but he is taking it slowly with throwing. He could be ready early in the season based on the way he’s progressing.
Salazar’s tentative timetable for a return is around the All-Star break. If he can get on the mound prior to the end of Spring Training, he thinks it will be possible. Because the Indians agreed to a one-year $4.5-million deal with the right-hander this offseason, it’s clear they believe he can make an impact this season, as well.