Thatcher to be left off Opening Day roster

March 25th, 2016
Left-hander Joe Thatcher has posted a 1.35 ERA in seven spring outings. (AP)Morry Gash/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians' complicated outfield situation impacted the team's decision-making for the bullpen on Friday morning. Cleveland is leaning towards carrying five outfielders, meaning the relief corps will likely consist of seven pitchers come Opening Day.

With that structure in mind, the Indians are not sure they can afford to carry a strict left-handed specialist, leading to some tough news for non-roster invitee Joe Thatcher. Manager Terry Francona informed the veteran left-hander that he will not be on the 25-man roster to open the season.

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"He came in and did exactly what he's supposed to do," Francona said. "It was more situationally trying to probably carry five outfielders and one less guy in the bullpen, and it directly hurt his chances. He didn't hurt his chances. Our situation did."

The 34-year-old southpaw has until Tuesday to decide whether he will accept a Minor League assignment. As a XX-B free agent, the left-hander would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus and a June 1 opt-out clause if he agrees to start in the Minors. Thatcher, who has a 1.35 ERA through seven outings this spring, was up against fellow lefties Kyle Crockett, Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler for one of the available bullpen jobs.

Other items of note from Friday:

• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley was scheduled to have his right shoulder (November surgery) examined by Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Friday morning before continuing his hitting program. Brantley did not bounce back as well as hoped in the days following his most recent Cactus League game on Monday. The Indians should have more information on the plan for Brantley on Saturday.

"He'll be looked at, and then hopefully he'll go out and start to get back in the swing of things," Francona said. "We'll go one step at a time."

• The Indians announced on Friday that the team will comply with Major League Baseball's Fan Safety Initiative this season at Progressive Field. The plans include expanding the existing safety netting, which will cover the full length between the home-plate side of each dugout, with a larger canopy behind the plate.

"Our fans' safety at Progressive Field has been and will continue to be a priority," said Jim Folk, the Indians' vice president of ballpark operations. "We're pleased MLB and Commissioner [Rob] Manfred continue to make safety a priority, and we'll follow their recommendations on continuing to provide a safe environment for our fans."

• With veteran Mike Napoli signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, and Carlos Santana also expected to see time at first base this year, the Indians unsurprisingly optioned first baseman Jesus Aguilar to Triple-A Columbus on Friday. Francona said it is important for the 25-year-old Aguilar to keep the big picture in mind while swallowing the news.

"We recognize that there can be some frustration on his part. We respect that," Francona said. "I just wanted to make sure he realizes that when he goes to Triple-A, whether he takes today or tomorrow off and kind of regroups, that he needs to do what he can do, or it hurts him. We don't want to see that happen. How you handle the frustration so often defines who you are."

• Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (right forearm tightness) made a pinch-hit appearance in Thursday night's game against the Dodgers, but he was out of Friday's lineup. Francona noted that Chisenhall was scheduled to get a handful of at-bats in a Minor League game and be looked at by Dr. Thomas Graham on Friday.