NEW YORK -- Erik Gonzalez knew his job was on the line over the past few days and the Indians infielder responded by playing some of the best baseball of his career. Prior to Friday's game against the Yankees, Cleveland opted to stick with Gonzalez as its super utility man.Friday
NEW YORK -- Erik Gonzalez knew his job was on the line over the past few days and the Indians infielder responded by playing some of the best baseball of his career. Prior to Friday's game against the Yankees, Cleveland opted to stick with Gonzalez as its super utility man.
Friday was decision day between Gonzalez and Gio Urshela, who recently completed a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus following a right hamstring injury. The Indians activated Urshela from the 10-day disabled list, but then designated him for assignment. When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
"I'm not sure we could've made a wrong choice," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I said it all along, we don't want to lose either one of them. They're our guys and we value them and they're good kids. So, we had a ton of discussion. [The front-office guys] kept walking me through different scenarios and the whys. I appreciate them doing it the way they do it.
"We came to the conclusion that, one, Gonzy is really helping us. But I don't doubt Gio would've, too. Maybe we have a better chance of getting him through [waivers]. I don't know. I think we're pretty much realizing we were probably going to lose one of them."
The Indians also selected the contract of reliever Alexi Ogando before Friday's game to provide another fresh arm for the team's taxed pitching staff. To clear room on the active roster for the veteran right-hander, Cleveland designated lefty Jeff Beliveau for assignment.
The Tribe also optioned Adam Plutko back to Triple-A, following his stint as the 26th man and spot starter for Thursday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays.
The Gonzalez vs. Urshela debate began in Spring Training, when the latter developed the hamstring issue that allowed the team to delay its decision. Both players are out of Minor League options and the makeup of Cleveland's roster only allowed for one of them to have a home on the bench. That meant risking exposing one of Gonzalez or Urshela to waivers before possibly sending them to Triple-A.
Gonzalez and Urshela -- who both signed as non-drafted international free agents with the Indians in 2008 -- only talked about the situation once during the spring.
"We really tried to avoid the topic," Gonzalez said through a team translator. "I never wanted it to be anything that came between our friendship."
Over his past three games, including Thursday's twin bill against Toronto, Gonzalez went 7-for-12 with four extra-base hits. In a span of two days, his season OPS soared to 1.025 from .432, boosting his season average to .391 in 15 games and 23 at-bats. Gonzalez is a natural shortstop, but he can play all four infield spots and help in the corner-outfield positions, if needed.
Urshela played a key role for the Indians in 2015 and again in '17, providing plus defense at third base and the ability to handle multiple infield spots. Offensively, he hit .225 with a .587 OPS in 148 career games for the Indians. In 11 games with Columbus this year, Urshela hit at a .324 clip with an .837 OPS, but his allotted rehab period expired on Wednesday, forcing Cleveland's hand.
"[I feel] good on one hand," Gonzalez said. "But, on the other hand, I don't feel good, because he was my teammate for many years and we signed together. So I hope he gets a good contract with another team."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.