Barnes reassigned, outfield competition rages on

March 17th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Just as the Indians move closer to naming their three starting outfielders by eliminating another candidate, the team may be nearing another addition that will keep all attention on the outfield.

Before the Indians' 9-9 tie with the Reds on Sunday, the club informed outfielder that he will not be making the Opening Day roster and reassigned him to Minor League camp, leaving five other options at Spring Training for the corner-outfield spots.

Jake Bauers, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Jordan Luplow and Trayce Thompson are the remaining outfield options for the Tribe, with a stronger emphasis being applied to the first three. But now, Cleveland could have Carlos Gonzalez – who’s Jesse Sanchez confirmed Saturday night signed with the Indians -- thrown into the mix in the next day or two.

With only 11 days remaining before Opening Day, it’s unlikely that Gonzalez would be able to break camp with the club, so the slots could easily remain open for the start of the season. Indians manager Terry Francona would not comment on the Gonzalez signing Sunday morning.

“If it’s on the internet, we all know it’s got to be true, right?” Francona said with a laugh. “You know what, when the time’s right I’ll be happy to talk about it. I don’t think the time is right.”

Assuming Gonzalez is not one of the 25 players on the Indians’ roster on March 28 in Minnesota, the outfield, at this point, could be Bauers in left, Leonys Martin in center and either Allen or Naquin in right. Because Naquin has struggled over the past few weeks at the plate, and Allen has really seen the ball well through his first 11 spring games, the latter candidate may be working his way toward earning the starting job on Opening Day.

“I think Naquin kind of showed that urgency [that players feel when trying to make a team] by how he prepared for coming into spring,” Francona said. “I mean, he came in and his lower half is just so much stronger than it’s been. His timing, I don’t think he’s found his timing at the plate yet this spring.”

Gonzalez would bring some much-needed experience to the Tribe’s outfield, as Bauers (primarily a first baseman), Allen, Naquin (who battled through two seasons of injuries) and Luplow all have a limited number of Major League games under their belts.

“I don’t sit around and ever think what we can’t do,” Francona said. “I always kind of sit around and think what we can do. … Shoot, I want our guys, whoever they are, to go out and be better than the other team. Whether they’ve done it before or not doesn’t mean we can’t do it now. That’s just kind of how I feel.”

Other roster moves

The Indians also reassigned Tim Federowicz and Mike Freeman to Minor League camp. And although Dioner Navarro will continue working out with the Indians, he was also informed Sunday morning that he will not be making the Opening Day roster.

Kluber solid until fourth

looked sharp through his first three innings on Sunday, but ran into some trouble in the fourth. On the day, the right-hander allowed five runs on six hits, including a homer and two walks.

“I lost the feel for it a little bit there in that last inning, and I wasn’t able to make adjustments,” Kluber said. “But that’s what pitching and hitting are, it’s adjustments. And when you don’t make adjustments quick enough, a lot of times it doesn’t turn out very well.”

In his two starts, Kluber has given up eight runs through 7 1/3 innings (9.82 ERA), but like Francona has said since the beginning of camp, spring stats do not matter.

“It looked like he started getting under some balls in the fourth,” Francona said. “But up until then, he looked like Kluber. I just think he needs a little bit of repetition, but he’ll be fine.”

Will Lindor break camp with the Tribe?

Francona said that he and the medical team will be sitting down with at some point over the next few days to work through whether or not he will be ready to start the season with the Indians.

“We’re gonna sit down with him here in the next day or so to try to figure it out, because I know he really wants to break with us,” Francona said. “We want to put him in the best spot, physically.”

As of now, the projected temperature in Minneapolis for March 28 is right around 50 degrees, but the potential for cold weather is something that the Indians have thought about.

“That’s the one thing. … He needs to be healthy,” Francona said. “If he’s not healthy enough to play in cold, we shouldn’t be messing around with that. So, I think we just need to do the right thing.”

Up next

The Indians will host the Padres at 4:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Goodyear Ballpark. Opening Day starter candidate Trevor Bauer will make his fifth start of the spring against right-hander Chris Paddack.