PHOENIX -- The Indians entered Spring Training without any major competitions, which is often the mark of a good team with stability. Cleveland still needed until the spring's last week to iron out the final details for the Opening Day roster.The decisions have been made and now, the Tribe is
PHOENIX -- The Indians entered Spring Training without any major competitions, which is often the mark of a good team with stability. Cleveland still needed until the spring's last week to iron out the final details for the Opening Day roster.
The decisions have been made and now, the Tribe is prepping for Thursday's season-opening game against the Mariners in Seattle.
"I'm comfortable that we covered everything," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think we're in a good spot. The guys we have, or are going to have, are healthy. I think we're in a good spot. It's a long season. We all get caught up, myself included, in the first week of the season. I think we're in a good position."
We made our predictions before Spring Training began and then examined the roster again later in camp. Now, there is clarity on how things will be actually be aligned for the start of the 2018 campaign.
Here is a look at the initial roster that will begin the Tribe's quest to win a third straight American League Central crown and push for a World Series run:
Catcher:Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez
The Indians got through Spring Training without any issues behind the plate, so Perez and Gomes will open the year as the Major League catching tandem, as expected. Prospects Francisco Mejia (No. 1 on the Tribe's Top 30 list, per MLB Pipeline) and Eric Haase (No. 20) impressed this spring and look like the next men up in the event of any setbacks to the big league catchers.
First base:Yonder Alonso
Cleveland inked Alonso to a two-year pact over the offseason, giving him the first base job that was vacated by Carlos Santana's departure in free agency. This spring, Alonso has flashed the same kind of power he displayed throughout his breakout '17 season. Heading into Monday's game, he had seven home runs and a .902 slugging percentage in Cactus League play.
Second base:Jason Kipnis
In the pre-spring predictions, Jose Ramirez was listed here due to uncertainty about Kipnis' place on the field. Francona cleared that up right away, noting that Kipnis would indeed return to his customary place on the field. After an offseason filled with trade rumors, and following an injury-married '17, Kipnis got off to a great start this spring by launching six homers in his first six Cactus League games.
There was never any question over who would patrol shortstop for the Indians this season. In the past two years, Lindor has picked up Gold and Platinum Glove Awards (both in 2016), a Silver Slugger Award ('17), made two All-Star teams, reached the World Series ('16) and was a top-five finisher in AL MVP voting ('17). And the switch-hitting shortstop is still just 24 years old.
Third base: Ramirez
When our first roster predictions came out, Yandy Diaz was at third base. After all, he was the Indians' Opening Day third baseman a year ago. At that time, it still seemed plausible that Ramirez was going to be at second, with Kipnis moving to the outfield. Once that idea was eliminated, Cleveland reverted back to a familiar alignment. Ramirez started for the AL All-Star team at third last season.
Designated hitter: Edwin Encarnacion
Encarnacion is entering the second season under the three-year, $60 million contract he signed with the Indians two winters ago. The slugger had a slow Spring Training this year, but the veteran put in his work and that was enough for Francona. Encarnacion was sluggish out of the chute last season, but wound up with 38 homers, 107 RBIs, 104 walks and an .881 OPS in 157 games.
Outfield:Tyler Naquin, Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall
Up until the final week of the season, it looked like Michael Brantley (right ankle surgery in October) might be ready in time for Opening Day. Cleveland probably could have gone that route, but decided the left fielder was not ready to shoulder the full load of a starter. Without Brantley on the roster, Naquin gets the nod and will get playing time in left field, with Zimmer in center and Chisenhall in right.
Bench:Rajai Davis, Erik Gonzalez, Brandon Guyer
Earlier this spring, Melvin Upton Jr. (since released) and Giovanny Urshela (headed to the DL with a right hamstring injury) looked poised to push for Opening Day jobs. Davis came to camp and convinced the Tribe to add him to the roster as a backup outfielder who offers speed. Guyer, who is coming back from left wrist surgery, will also offer a right-handed complement to the all-lefty outfield. With Urshela sidelined, Gonzalez will be the utility man.
Rotation:Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin
The only change from the pre-spring predictions is the absence of Danny Salazar, who will open on the disabled list with a right shoulder issue. Salazar is finally back to throwing off a mound, but there is no timetable for his return. So, Kluber will make his fourth straight Opening Day start and will be followed by Carrasco, Bauer, Clevinger and Tomlin (in that order). The Indians boast one of the best starting casts in baseball.
Bullpen:Cody Allen, Matt Belisle, Nicholas Goody, Zach McAllister, Andrew Miller, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero
The first round of predictions for the bullpen included Clevinger, though that was before Salazar's situation came to light. The next prediction for the last spot was lefty Ryan Merritt, who is out of options. It has since been revealed that a left knee issue will send him to the DL to start the year. For the last spot, Cleveland's decision came down to non-roster invitees Carlos Torres and Belisle, with the latter winning the job.
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.