GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians entered Spring Training with more position battles than they’ve had over the past few years. But with less than a week remaining until regular-season play begins in Detroit, the Indians appear to have locked in their Opening Day roster.
Catcher (2): Roberto Pérez, Austin Hedges
After two years of battling through injuries, Pérez entered camp in excellent shape, having dropped 25 pounds over the offseason. There was never a question of whether Pérez would be the club’s primary catcher. What’s still left to determine is just how much Hedges will spell Pérez. In a year of trimming payroll, the Indians decided to keep Hedges, who signed a one-year, $2.8 million deal to avoid arbitration. The two are very similar defensively and should be a solid duo behind the dish.
First base (1): Jake Bauers
What was one of the more difficult decisions for the Indians ended up in Bauers’ favor. The club told Josh Naylor to focus on right field, which left Bauers and Bobby Bradley as the top two candidates for first base. While Bradley once demonstrated his power at the plate this spring and entered camp 35 pounds lighter than he was last year, the team believed in Bauers’ potential. Because Bauers was out of Minor League options, the Indians wanted to give him the first shot at earning the everyday job -- as the team isn’t ready to give up on the 25-year-old just yet.
Third base (1): José Ramírez
There was never a question when it comes to Ramírez’s position.
Shortstop (1): Andrés Giménez
As soon as the Indians decided to approach Amed Rosario about playing the outfield, it was clear Giménez had won the shortstop battle. The 22-year-old made the best first impression he could in his first spring with his new organization and made sure the Tribe would carry him on the Opening Day roster by showcasing his bat, defense and arm strength over the last six weeks.
Designated hitter (1): Franmil Reyes
No surprises here. Reyes’ power has him locked into the Indians’ DH role.
Utility (1): Yu Chang
The Indians traded Mike Freeman to the Reds earlier this spring, leaving Chang to take over the utility spot. Chang had as hot of a Summer Camp as he could’ve asked for last July, which caused the Indians to put him on the Opening Day roster. Though he didn’t see much playing time, Chang put in a lot of work over the offseason and came to camp feeling better than he did last year, he said.
Outfield (5): Eddie Rosario, Josh Naylor, Jordan Luplow, Amed Rosario, Ben Gamel
Eddie Rosario has been the one guarantee for the Indians' outfield since the start of camp. He will play left field nearly every day and Naylor is set to get the majority of the reps in right. Because Oscar Mercado and Bradley Zimmer are starting the year at the Indians’ alternate training site, Gamel and Luplow will spend a lot of time in center field. Eventually, as Amed Rosario continues to get more comfortable in the outfield, the Indians are looking to inject him into the center-field mix, as well.
Starting pitchers (5): Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Logan Allen, Triston McKenzie
No one had to wonder how the top three spots in Cleveland’s rotation would shake out, but the last two openings became quite a battle. Allen was the highlight of the Indians’ camp and pitched his way into the rotation. Because the Indians are going to utilize a four-man rotation in April, McKenzie likely will start the season in the bullpen.
Relievers (8): James Karinchak, Emmanuel Clase, Nick Wittgren, Phil Maton, Oliver Pérez, Cal Quantrill, Bryan Shaw, Trevor Stephan
The Indians traded Adam Plutko on Saturday, which freed up enough spots on the roster for the club to carry Allen, McKenzie and Quantrill. Quantrill will at least begin the year in the bullpen, but could later factor into the rotation. While Karinchak, Clase, Wittgren and Maton were locks from the get-go, Pérez and Shaw each had solid showings this spring to be awarded spots on the Opening Day roster after being signed to Minor League deals. The club is excited to take a chance on Stephan, whom they selected in the Rule 5 Draft over the winter.