PHOENIX -- The highly-anticipated rotation competition for the Indians this spring collapsed before it even began. A January setback with Danny Salazar has put Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger in a prime position to begin the season on the Opening Day starting staff.
On Monday afternoon, Tomlin made his Cactus League debut against the Brewers and turned in a solid two-inning outing in the Indians' 7-6 loss at Maryvale Baseball Park. With Salazar working his way back from right shoulder inflammation, Tomlin feels Cleveland's rotation is fortunate to have strong depth going into the season.
"It's huge. You never go through a season with the 25 you break with," Tomlin said. "We know that. We've seen it for numerous years. I've seen it for eight years now. It's one of those things where, the more depth you have, the better chance you have of being successful when a guy goes down, or when a guy needs a break, or things like that happen."
"We understand Danny's a little bit behind maybe right now," he continued. "But, I know he's trying to do his due diligence in the training room and get back as quick as he can. That will be wildly beneficial to have six guys that are able to compete at that level in the rotation."
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Salazar is currently working through the flat ground portion of his throwing program and his availability for Opening Day is questionable.
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As for Tomlin, the righty allowed only one hit against the Brewers and ended with a pair of strikeouts and no walks. Pitching lines do not always tell the whole story, though, especially in Spring Training. While Tomlin was encouraged, he felt there was plenty to work on before his next turn.
"For the most part, I had a good fastball, I thought," Tomlin said. "The fastball kind of leaked back on the outer half a little bit -- towards the middle of the plate -- so that's something that needs to be cleaned up. It's nice that it's happening now in Spring Training, when you're getting a feel for how to command."
Two years ago, Francisco Mejia was nearly traded to the Brewers in a deal that would have brought Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland. Lucroy blocked the deal, and the Indians got to keep Mejia and the three other players nearly shipped to Milwaukee. Now, Mejia is not only the Indians' No. 1 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but baseball's top catching prospect.
During Monday's game against the Brewers, Mejia gave fans in attendance a glimpse of what could have been, when he drilled a pitch from Tyler Webb out to left field for a two-run home run. Mejia is currently blocked by Major League catchers Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes, and likely ticketed for Triple-A Columbus, but is trying to pry his way onto the roster this spring.
Left fielder Michael Brantley (right ankle) continues to work through a rehab program that includes hitting, throwing and straight ahead running. Indians manager Terry Francona noted this past weekkend that the outfielder made progress with decelerating in recent days and might be cleared soon to resume outfield-specific work.
• In Yonder Alonso's spring debut he manned first base, while Edwin Encarnacion served as the designated hitter. The next time they were both in the lineup, their roles were reversed. Francona said he anticipates having a similar setup this year as last season, when Carlos Santana (1,225 2/3 innings) carried the bulk of the load at first with Encarnacion (198 innings) being worked in on occasion.
"We feel like [Alonso] will be an above-average defender," Francona said. "How much we play him there and how much we play Edwin, it'll be a little bit like Santana last year with Edwin, the fact that we're trying to keep them both in the lineup as much as we can. So, you'll see him DH from time to time."
• Francona has carried eight relievers in the bullpen at times over the years as Cleveland's manager, but it looks like the Indians will have seven relievers in the Opening Day relief corps this year. Said Francona: "Can we carry eight? I don't know. To do that, you've got to have like, that super utility guy on the bench. I'm not sure that's how we'll [start the season]. It just depends on how we're situated."
Up next: Ace Corey Kluber, who took home his second career American League Cy Young Award last season, is slated to make his Cactus League debut in a 3:05 p.m. ET tilt against the A's on Tuesday at Goodyear Ballpark. Right-hander Nicholas Goody is among the relievers scheduled to appear for the Tribe. Listen in on Indians.com for an exclusive audio broadcast.