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Strong spring earns Diaz spot with Indians

MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yandy Diaz admitted that he was extremely nervous when he was called into Indians manager Terry Francona's office on Thursday afternoon. When the rookie emerged, he was soon greeted with celebratory hugs inside Cleveland's clubhouse.

The Indians rewarded Diaz's strong spring showing with a spot on the Opening Day roster as the club's third baseman. Francona also informed veteran Michael Martinez that he will break camp with the big league club as a utility man off the bench.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Yandy Diaz admitted that he was extremely nervous when he was called into Indians manager Terry Francona's office on Thursday afternoon. When the rookie emerged, he was soon greeted with celebratory hugs inside Cleveland's clubhouse.

The Indians rewarded Diaz's strong spring showing with a spot on the Opening Day roster as the club's third baseman. Francona also informed veteran Michael Martinez that he will break camp with the big league club as a utility man off the bench.

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Diaz was at a loss for words when asked for his reaction to the news.

"I can't even tell you. I'm so happy," Diaz said through team translator Anna Bolton. "This is my first time playing in the big leagues. I think about all the sacrifices I've made over the past four years to make it here. I don't even know what to say. I just thank God I'm here."

Video: CLE@MIL: Diaz hits an RBI double to score Brantley

Both Diaz and Martinez -- in camp as non-roster invitees -- will need to be added to Cleveland's 40-man roster prior to Opening Day. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela and infield prospect Erik Gonzalez were optioned to Triple-A Columbus, bringing an end to the last two spring competitions. Francona said the Indians want Gonzalez getting regular at-bats in the Minors, rather than sitting on the Major League bench.

The third-base job became available after second baseman Jason Kipnis was sidelined with a right shoulder injury earlier this spring. With Kipnis beginning the season on the 10-day disabled list, Jose Ramirez will move off third and play second base. Until Kipnis' return, Diaz will fill in at third base.

"This was a really difficult decision," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "That's a reflection of the work that Gio and Erik did, in addition to how Yandy and Michael played. Again, it was a very difficult decision, but we feel this puts us in a strong position to start the season."

Cleveland will need to clear one spot on the 40-man roster to add Diaz, Martinez and outfielder Austin Jackson. One spot was cleared when Rule 5 draftee Hoby Milner was returned to the Phillies, and another will open when righty Cody Anderson (Tommy John surgery on his right elbow) is placed on the 60-day DL. Lefty Tim Cooney (left forearm) is also a 60-day DL candidate.

Diaz, who is rated as the Tribe's No. 10 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, was considered for a promotion to the Majors down the stretch last season, but Cleveland opted instead to trade for veteran outfielder Coco Crisp. Diaz was focusing on a transition to the outfield at the time and that continued into the early portion of Spring Training.

Video: CLE@KC: Diaz's broken-bat single plates a run

Diaz is not at the same defensive level as Urshela, but he worked diligently behind the scenes in a move back to third base. Offensively, Diaz stood out in a big way. In 18 Cactus League games this spring, he hit .429 (18-for-42) with two home runs, four doubles, 13 RBIs and more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five).

"The way Yandy played, it's kind of hard to ignore that," Francona said. "We tested him a lot and there's an opportunity, and it looks like he deserves it."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

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