The moment Indians fans have been waiting for has arrived: outfield prospect Daniel Johnson has officially joined the big league roster.
Franmil Reyes was put on the paternity list on Saturday afternoon, making room for Johnson to join the 26-man roster. A player can stay on the paternity list for up to three days, which means the Indians will be left with some decisions to make in order to clear space for Reyes to be added back on to the roster early next week.
Johnson had a solid spring for Cleveland, owning a .368 average with a 1.165 OPS, one double, two homers and four RBIs in 19 at-bats in Cactus League play. But despite the potential with his bat, his speed and his arm strength from the outfield, the team decided to start him at the alternate training site this season, which was a difficult conversation at the end of camp.
“You kind of give the player a little room and hopefully at some point they realize you don’t have it out for them,” manager Terry Francona said. “He may not agree with your decision, but you certainly don’t want it to linger.”
Now, he has his chance once again at the big league level. Johnson made his debut on July 25 of last season but went just 1-for-12 before he was sent back to the alternate training site. But in 2019, he thrived after his promotion to Triple-A Columbus, hitting .306 with an .867 OPS, nine homers, 27 doubles and 44 RBIs in 84 games. With his versatility to play all three spots in the outfield, he could be a beneficial addition for Cleveland. But now, he just needs to prove he belongs in the Majors.
“[The coaches at the alternate training site] said he was swinging the bat pretty well,” Francona said. “DJ actually had a pretty good swing, and I know he wasn’t really pleased when we told him he wasn’t making the team, so this is his chance to kind of show what he can do.”
Hernandez out of lineup, but OK
Cesar Hernandez was pulled from Friday’s series opener in Chicago after he was hit on his finger on a bunt attempt in the seventh inning. Although he wasn’t in Saturday’s starting lineup, Francona said that Hernandez was feeling better.
“He wanted to play today,” Francona said. “He already had one finger that’s beat up because a couple weeks ago I think he sliced it with a scissor or a knife. Now he’s got the other one. I just thought it’d be good for him to take a day. He said he’ll be ready to come in and do whatever, and I don’t doubt that. But I just thought it’d be good for him."
Bieber showing shades of Kluber
Shane Bieber has set so many records in his young career that not even Francona can keep up. When the skipper was asked on Saturday about Bieber’s latest achievement, Francona said, “What record did he get last night?”
After talking about his strikeout record – becoming the first pitcher to ever record at least eight K’s in 18 consecutive starts – Francona immediately thought of former Cleveland ace (and the club’s only two-time Cy Young Award winner) Corey Kluber.
“I used to say this about Kluber all the time, but he had a bar and he was so consistent, but the bar was so high,” Francona said. “That’s kind of what we’ve seen in this case with Biebs. The bar is so high and his level of consistency is right there with it. That’s a pretty nice combination.”