Prospect Chang among latest Indians moves

March 11th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With Francisco Lindor still questionable for Opening Day, was a top candidate to be the Indians' temporary shortstop. But an injured finger has played a large part in eliminating that chance.

The Indians announced their second round of cuts on Monday afternoon, optioning Chang and right-handed pitchers Jefry Rodriguez and Ben Taylor to Triple-A Columbus. Right-handers James Hoyt, Brooks Pounders and Asher Wojciechowski and outfielder Mike Papi were also reassigned to Minor League camp.

Indians manager Terry Francona said that Chang injured his finger while swinging last week, which has kept him out of the lineup since Thursday.

"He hasn’t been in there the last few days and it’s probably going to be a few more days," Francona said. "So that was part of the reasoning for the timing today. We’ll get him over to the other side, get him healthy and get him playing in games. I think they have an exhibition game on the 12th and then they start playing the 13th, so that gives him a couple days to get ready to play over there."

At the beginning of camp, Francona said that the five guys getting looks at shortstop in place of Lindor were Chang, Mike Freeman, Ryan Flaherty, Max Moroff and Eric Stamets. With Chang optioned and Freeman still recovering from a lubricant injection in his knee, Flaherty, Moroff and Stamets remain the top options.

Chang, 23, went 6-for-20 (.300) in his 11 spring games for the Tribe, with three doubles, one homer, five RBIs and seven strikeouts. The organization's No. 11 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, hit .256/.330/.411 in 127 Triple-A contests last season with 13 homers and 62 RBIs, and he has also been getting reps at third and second. Chang may not be breaking camp with the Indians, but he’s working his way closer to getting his first callup to the big leagues.

"Every year that we’ve seen him, he seems to get stronger, more mature with his ability to play second, third and short," Francona said. " ... It’s fun also to see, because you don’t see him regularly even though we do get reports and see video. But to see how the shoulders get bigger, to see him drive the ball where maybe they used to feel for it -- we enjoy that."

Kluber makes spring debut

After spending the first half of his spring on the back fields at the Indians’ training facility, made his spring debut in Monday’s 5-5 tie with the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.

“I think it’s first and foremost managing the intensity,” Kluber said of pitching in simulated games. “Ideally, we’re gonna throw plenty of innings throughout the season. So, if you think about it, what’s 10 innings on a back field, as opposed to in a game if you can control that intensity a little bit. But I think also if there are things that I’m working on, whether it be delivery-wise or pitch-wise, it’s a lot easier to do that in a controlled setting.”

The 32-year-old allowed three runs on six hits, including a home run to Yasiel Puig, in 3 2/3 innings. The trouble Kluber faced on the mound mostly came from his fastball, but Francona was quick to note how good Kluber’s changeup and breaking ball looked as he continued to work on his heater through his three-plus frames.

“Most people aren’t going to continue to throw fastballs while they’re getting their butt whooped out there,” Kluber said. “So it’s easier to control that stuff in [a simulated-game] environment also.”

Clevinger relieves Kluber

To get some more innings, the Indians had planned for him to relieve Kluber after about three frames. Clevinger went through his typical pregame routine as if he were starting, and was brought in with two outs in the fourth inning. He struck out five hitters in his 2 2/3 frames, but allowed a two-run blast to Matt Kemp.

“We have a day off tomorrow. We had a chance to get our pitching all out of whack,” Francona said. “Everybody pitched and part of it is, like Clev cooperating, doing what he did and doing it with a smile. Everybody got their work in. It ended up being a good day all the way around.”

Up next

After an off-day on Tuesday, the Indians will have split-squad games on Wednesday, with Trevor Bauer on the mound at home against right-hander Chase Anderson and the Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark. Cody Anderson will start against Kansas City at Surprise Stadium. Both games are slated for 4:05 p.m. ET.