Notes: Roster trimmed, switch-hitting early

July 21st, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have high hopes for outfielder Daniel Johnson, their No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but his time to get to the big leagues has not come just yet.

On Monday, manager Terry Francona informed Johnson, reliever David Hernandez and catcher Beau Taylor that they will not be making the Opening Day roster. Johnson and Hernandez will be moving over to the Lake County camp, while Taylor will remain in Cleveland until the beginning of the regular season to add some depth in practices and intrasquad games.

Johnson entered camp with an impressive Minor League résumé, hitting .306 with an .867 OPS, nine homers and 44 RBIs in 84 Triple-A games in 2019. He has plus speed and well-above-average arm strength, but because there are 10 outfielders on the Indians’ 40-man roster, he had a handful of guys ahead of him in the pecking order.

“Like we do with everybody, we tried to be as honest as we can,” Francona said. “We told him coming into Spring Training this year in Goodyear, we had him behind a significant amount of other guys just because of where he was in his career. And then coming into this camp, he made it really difficult.”

Johnson had a solid showing in just over two weeks at Summer Camp, winning the MVP honors in one of the Tribe’s intrasquad scrimmages, in which he blasted a three-run homer to earn a $100 prize. On Friday, he launched another long ball off Adam Cimber in an intrasquad matchup.

“We tried to explain to him that sometimes you’re sending guys down and it’s crushing,” Francona said. “Other times, you’re just informing them that this might not be their time yet, but it could be right on the horizon. I didn’t want it to get lost in the disappointment of not making the club, how impressive he’s been.”

Joining Johnson in Lake County will be Hernandez, who was a late add to the Tribe’s 60-man player pool. The righty was signed to a Minor League deal on July 3 and will be an option for Cleveland to have at Classic Park should they need another reliever.

Taylor will be the Tribe’s third catcher behind Roberto Pérez and Sandy León. For road trips this season, teams will carry a three-man taxi squad, which must include one catcher. Taylor will fill that role throughout the year.

Four switch-hitters at the top of the order
The Indians are locked in on having four switch-hitters in the top four spots of their lineup to start the season. Cesar Hernandez will lead off, José Ramírez will bat second, Francisco Lindor will hit third and Carlos Santana will be put in the cleanup spot.

“I toyed around between [Ramírez] and Santana,” Francona said on the decision to have Ramírez in the two-hole, as opposed to fourth. “To me, they were in interchangeable spots. Josey runs a little better. Carlos is more comfortable hitting cleanup, as far as hitting second or fourth. That was really all it was, those two things. I think they’re interchangeable.”

Having four consecutive switch-hitters is rare, and it’s something that Francona debated whether it'd be the most beneficial for his team.

“I know it can take away from some balance when bullpen guys come in,” Francona said. “But the idea is to beat the starter. That’s probably our four best guys, taking everything into consideration, whether it’s speed, on-base, power. It probably situates us the best way to win a game. If we ever feel differently, we can certainly change it.”

Starting plans
The Indians were scheduled to have discussions about whether to boast a five- or six-man rotation to start the year on Monday, but Francona said he’d like to continue the conversations with his staff on Tuesday before he makes a final decision.