As Giménez excels, Rosario tries outfield

March 11th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Indians have looked strictly at and at shortstop this spring, and it has been difficult to discern who had the lead in the race for the Opening Day job. On Wednesday, however, the team met with Rosario to discuss the idea of trying different positions.

Indians manager Terry Francona said on Thursday that he sat down and talked about the idea of Rosario taking some fly balls in center field next week.

“We’re trying to not overly complicate this, so we’ll go one position at a time, see how he does,” Francona said. “He went out and worked in the outfield [on Wednesday]. He’s going to start tracking some balls.

“I told him, ‘You tell me when you’re comfortable to play. I’m not going to put you out there until then.’ He seemed excited about it. He had told us at the beginning of camp, ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’”

It was clear from the moment the Indians made the trade with the Mets, shipping Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to New York in exchange for Rosario and Giménez (along with a few prospects), just how high they believed Giménez’s ceiling was. Just after the deal was made, Mets president Sandy Alderson said Giménez appeared to be the focal point of the Indians during the trade talks.

It has been three weeks of Spring Training, but Giménez has given everyone a taste of why he was so high on Cleveland’s wish list. The 22-year-old entered Thursday with a .333 batting average and 1.242 OPS in six Cactus League games. Not only has he been hot at the plate, but Giménez has showcased his arm by throwing a runner out at the plate on a relay from the outfield and has played stellar defense each time he has taken the field.

“He's solid,” Francona said. “He makes all the routine plays. He's a solid baseball player. That's what everybody talks so much about him, even at his age, but he's a baseball player. And he makes all the plays. That's a big compliment to a young kid.”

Entering camp, the question wasn’t about whether Giménez would one day make an impact at the big league level for the Indians -- it was more about when he could get there. He made his debut in 2020 with the Mets and played in 49 games, but the Indians could easily decide to start him in the Minor Leagues for service time purposes. And with Rosario as the other option to start at shortstop, it was a realistic idea.

Rosario has also had a solid spring, hitting .333 through five games entering Thursday, with a .762 OPS. He has more Major League experience, playing shortstop for the Mets consistently for the last three years. But now that the Indians have made the decision to start moving Rosario into center field, it may be a good sign for Giménez, who already started to have the odds lean in his favor after Major League Baseball announced that the Triple-A season would be delayed by a month.

“We haven’t made a lineup out yet,” Francona said. “When we look at it, [Rosario’s] skill set, if he’s able to move around, you have a Major League bat and a guy who’s extremely versatile. Pretty much every good team out there, they want a guy who can move around and is really versatile. It really helps. It may not be the analytics, the way they view the game, but as a manager, when you have a guy you can move around and he’s dependable, it goes a long way.”