Spring Training has put in its two weeks’ notice. The Tribe will soon bid adieu to the reliably delightful Arizona sun bound for … Detroit, where the regular season begins on April 1.
With Opening Day drawing near, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti addressed a variety of ongoing Spring Training topics with reporters on Thursday. Here are the highlights:
Looming roster decisions
Andrés Giménez has seized control of the starting shortstop job. But Cleveland still has big questions to answer in center field (with Oscar Mercado, Bradley Zimmer and Amed Rosario in the mix), first base (Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers) and the last two rotation spots (Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill and Logan Allen). The altered spring schedule makes those decisions complicated.
“The combination of fewer Major League innings, no split squads and no Minor League games makes it difficult to get opportunities for a lot of players we’d like to see,” Antonetti said. “We’re in the process of determining how we prioritize innings and at-bats for the guys here.”
Rosario’s CF experiment
With Giménez at short, Rosario has had to scramble to potentially help in center. He made three errors in his first start there Tuesday and started in center again Thursday.
“He’s going to continue to get opportunities,” Antonetti said. “What we’ve tried to do is take the pressure off him and let him know we expect mistakes.”
“If we were in an ideal world and this was a normal Spring Training, he would get reps out there,” Antonetti said. “We do think he has the ability to play out there.”
Allen’s strong rotation bid
The lefty appeared to be on the outside looking in with regard to the rotation picture. But Allen has improved his velocity and sharpened his slider.
“One of the highlights of camp so far,” Antonetti said. “He took ownership of where he was last fall and committed to have a great 2021. He put in a tremendous amount of work on his own, and then in Goodyear, to make sure his body is in great shape to execute his delivery -- then made adjustments to his delivery to both have better pitch shapes and command those pitches better.”
Bradley’s great camp
The Tribe’s No. 20 prospect has the tough task of trying to beat out a player who is out of Minor League options in Bauers. But Bradley’s improved conditioning and 1.359 OPS, entering Thursday, have turned heads.
“He had a great winter and came into camp physically in a great place,” Antonetti said. “That’s carried forward to his performance.”
The Mickey Callaway investigation
Major League Baseball continues to investigate allegations of a years-long pattern of sexual harassment of women, including Callaway’s time as Cleveland's pitching coach. Antonetti did not offer a timetable for when the investigation will be complete.
“It’s not our investigation, it’s MLB’s investigation,” said Antonetti, “and we’re trying to be as supportive as we can of it.”
Naylor’s poor spring numbers
Penciled in as the starting right fielder, Josh Naylor, a key acquisition in last summer’s Mike Clevinger trade, was 5-for-24 with five strikeouts entering Thursday.
“Early on, he’s had some good at-bats and hit some hard line-drive outs to outfielders,” Antonetti said. “It doesn’t show in the stats on the surface, but the quality of his contact tells a different story. We’ll work with him on focusing and controlling at-bats.”
Chang’s early output
The trade of Mike Freeman opened the door for Yu Chang to again begin the season as a utility man. He didn’t get much playing time in 2020, but he was 6-for-22 with four homers and a triple this spring before getting scratched Thursday with neck soreness.
“We’re really encouraged by what he’s done,” Antonetti said. “One of the challenges Yu will have to work through is making the transition from full-time in the Minor Leagues to a player who might not get regular at-bats in the Major Leagues.”
“Very consistent defensively,” Antonetti said. “His approach in Spring Training was maybe a little further advanced than we were expecting. He controlled the strike zone and used the opposite field.”