Bauer, Carrasco, Tomlin club's remaining candidates for starting duty in 2014
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are one step closer to revealing their choice for the final spot in the rotation. After a lengthy meeting on Sunday morning, the club informed veteran Aaron Harang that he would not be on the Opening Day roster.
With Harang out of the picture, the Tribe's three remaining rotation candidates are Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer. General manager Chris Antonetti said the front office and coaching staff is still working through a variety of factors that will influence the final decision.
"Our preference is to make decisions as soon as we can," Antonetti said. "But we can't rush those decisions, and we want to make sure we make decisions that are in the best interest of the team and the organization. Sometimes, more information is helpful."
Antonetti noted that the 35-year-old Harang has the ability to opt out of his Minor League contract and elect free agency on Monday. Cleveland made it known to the right-hander, though, that it would be happy to keep him within the organization.
If Harang decides to stay with the Indians without first testing the open market as a free agent, he would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus. Under that scenario, Harang would also be given the right to opt out of his contract with Cleveland on June 1.
The Indians would love nothing more than to have an experienced pitcher such as Harang in Triple-A as depth for the big league staff.
"We've obviously expressed to Aaron how much we appreciate him," Antonetti said, "and what he's done this spring on the field, the teammate he's been, the professional he's been. We'd love to keep him in the organization if he was open to it, but he's earned that right to look for another Major League opportunity."
In four Cactus League appearances this spring, Harang has posted a 2.00 ERA with six strikeouts against two walks in nine innings. During a Double-A game on Friday, the righty surrendered six runs (four earned) on seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk in five innings.
"He's very professional," manager Terry Francona said. "He actually pitched really well, for the most part. After lengthy discussions, we kind of came to the conclusion that right now, we have other guys ahead of him. I think we'll be surprised if he doesn't find a Major League job, but if he didn't, we'd love to have him back."
The Indians added Harang as a non-roster invitee on Feb. 15, giving him a shot at the lone vacancy within the starting staff. Cleveland's decision is now down to Carrasco (out of options), Tomlin (returning from Tommy John surgery) and Bauer (the club's top pitching prospect).
Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar already have spots reserved in the rotation.
Antonetti has previously made it known that Carrasco -- due to being out of options -- will begin the season on the Opening Day roster either as a starter or reliever. In four Cactus League outings this spring, the right-hander has allowed 11 runs (six earned) on 15 hits with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 9 2/3 innings.
"Carlos is in that mix," Antonetti said. "That will obviously have an impact on what happens in the bullpen."
Of the three remaining candidates, Tomlin has arguably pitched the best this spring, turning in a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings (18 strikeouts and two walks) between Cactus League and Minor League outings. The right-hander was limited to two Major League innings last season, but has returned from elbow surgery with a fastball that has sat around 90-93 mph this spring.
Antonetti said Cleveland will have to be congnizant of Tomlin's innings this season, but the right-hander has certainly impressed the club to this point.
"Josh has had a great camp," Antonetti said. "We couldn't have asked anything more of him, the way he's come in, the way he's competed. He's picked up actually where he left off well prior to his surgery, and [looks like] the Josh Tomlin we all saw when he came to the Major League level and was a really effective pitcher for us."
The 23-year-old Bauer -- a key piece acquired from Arizona in the three-team, nine-player trade that also involved the Reds in December 2012 -- is kind of the wild card in the rotation race. Following a season in which he dramatically overhauled his delivery, the young right-hander has experienced inconsistent results this spring.
Bauer has hit 98 mph on occasion, but has seen his fastball command come and go. He has 18 strikeouts in 16 innings between Cactus League and Minor League outings, but has also given up 13 runs (12 earned) on 18 hits with eight walks. In a Triple-A game on Thursday, Bauer had eight strikeouts and no walks in five innings.
"I think we've probably been looking at the big picture more than just the final spot," Francona said. "And we were really encouraged by his last outing. Obviously, we've bought in to Trevor for the long haul, because we made a pretty big trade for him. We try to never lose sight of that.
"I think it's really encouraging on a lot of fronts, what he's trying to do."
Cleveland hopes to make its decision sooner rather than later.
"All of us would like to have clarity and certainty," Antonetti said, "and we are very sensitive to the impact that has on guys in the clubhouse. That's why we've tried to move forward, a lot of the decisions that we've made over the last couple of days, and not wait until the last day or two of camp."