CLEVELAND -- The Indians' Opening Day roster is set.
With just two days remaining until the 2020 season gets underway, the Tribe made its final cuts on Wednesday afternoon to reach its 30-man roster. After two weeks of the regular season, Cleveland will trim its roster to 28 players, before reaching its normal size of 26 players on Day 29. Here’s a look at who will fill out the 30 roster spots against the Royals on Friday.
There’s no replacing Pérez behind the plate. In his first season as the starting catcher, he was the only backstop to catch more than 100 games without allowing a passed ball. On top of his stellar defense, he tripled his previous career high in home runs last season, with 24. Cleveland acquired León from Boston on Dec. 2, and he will take over the backup duties from Kevin Plawecki, who was non-tendered in December.
First base (1): Carlos Santana
After Santana carried the Indians through their highs and lows in 2019, there isn’t much left to analyze when it comes to his role this year. He's been a lock in the Tribe's lineup since Day 1, and Mike Freeman could be an option to fill in for him if he needs a day off.
Second base (1): Cesar Hernandez
Not only did the Indians find their replacement at second base this past offseason after they declined to pick up Jason Kipnis’ $16.5 million option, they have also found their new leadoff hitter. Manager Terry Francona said that it’s likely Francisco Lindor will move down to the third spot in the batting order, replacing him with Hernández at the top of the lineup.
Shortstop (1): Francisco Lindor
The Lindor trade rumors swirled all winter, but Lindor will be the Indians' Opening Day shortstop for the 2020 season. Cleveland will now have 38 days to determine whether it would want to move Lindor by the Trade Deadline (Aug. 31), which makes it a little more likely that the All-Star shortstop will remain with the Tribe this season.
Third base (1): José Ramírez
In a 60-game season, Ramírez will not have time to get off to a slow offensive start like he did in 2019. He’ll look to continue the momentum he built beginning on June 14, 2019, that lasted through the end of the season, hitting .314 with a 1.031 OPS, 19 homers and 62 RBIs.
At first, Chang just looked like he got off to a hot start this camp, launching a few home runs off Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac. He credited the wind for helping the balls get over the fence, but quickly we learned that the wind had very little to do with the result. Since the first day of on-field workouts at the beginning of the month, Chang’s bat has not cooled off, making it impossible for the team to not carry him. However, the Tribe decided to also make room for two other utility guys in Freeman and Arroyo. Freeman thrived in this role for the Indians last season and brings tremendous versatility, being able to play all infield and outfield positions, and the team remains optimistic about Arroyo’s potential despite his past few injury-plagued seasons.
Zimmer entered Summer Camp with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove that he can be used more than for just his speed. Like Chang, Zimmer was scorching hot through Summer Camp, and that made it essentially impossible for him to be ignored. Despite missing nearly all of 2019 and half of '18 with injuries, Zimmer is finally ready to show what he can do in a healthy season. And because Naquin has dealt with a right big toe contusion after fouling a ball off his foot in Monday’s exhibition game, the team recalled Johnson on Friday morning for extra depth.
Delino DeShields would’ve been more in the mix if he didn’t have to miss the first 10 days of camp due to his bout with COVID-19. He returned on July 11, but he was placed on the 10-day injured list on July 13 and is still ramping up his activity level. Once he gets back to full strength, the team may decide to replace Allen, who fills a similar role as DeShields would, with him.
Bieber, Clevinger and Carrasco were guarantees to be the top three in the rotation, and it was assumed by the way the club had used Civale throughout camp that he’d lock up the fourth spot. But Zach Plesac, who will be the fifth starter, will not be recalled until before his start on Tuesday to allow room for Johnson on the roster. That way, the team could avoid placing Naquin on the injured list.
By carrying three utility guys, the Indians’ pitching staff will consist of 14 total arms, including nine relievers. Plutko was in a close battle with Plesac to earn the fifth starting spot, but he was shifted into the bullpen to give the team some length if a starter would run into trouble, especially in the early days of the season.
Hill, who will make his first big league roster, has caught plenty of attention from his teammates and coaching staff since the start of Spring Training in Arizona. He and Leone were non-roster invitees for both rounds of camp.