GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It only took one trip to the plate during Thursday afternoon's 7-6 loss to the Padres for Rajai Davis to show what he can still offer the Indians. After drawing a walk against lefty Joey Lucchesi, Davis promptly stole second base, advanced to third on a wild
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It only took one trip to the plate during Thursday afternoon's 7-6 loss to the Padres for Rajai Davis to show what he can still offer the Indians. After drawing a walk against lefty Joey Lucchesi, Davis promptly stole second base, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then trotted home on a single from Jose Ramirez.
"The biggest thing is he looks like Raj," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
That is why, following discussions behind the scenes on Wednesday and more conversations on Thursday morning, Davis was informed that he will be a part of Cleveland's Opening Day roster. Once the specifics of Davis' contact are hammered out, he will reprise the oufield role he filled for the 2016 Tribe. He brings speed, the ability to man all three spots and provides a right-handed complement to the Indians' lefty-dominant outfield.
Like Davis, veteran Mike Napoli -- a key member of the 2016 Tribe team that reached the World Series -- was in camp on a Minor League contract as a non-roster invitee this spring. Unlike the outfielder, the Indians do not have a job to offer on their Opening Day roster. Cleveland is continuing to work with Napoli on his potential place in the organization, if another Major League job does not come to fruition in the coming days.
For paperwork purposes, Napoli will be granted his release on Thursday, but he will then be re-signed to a Minor League contract by the Indians come Friday. The move is to work around the opt-out clause in Napoli's original deal -- that date arrived Thursday -- and sidesteps eligibility for a retention bonus.
"Come Saturday or Sunday, they'll try to get a feel for what we're going to do," Francona said. "Whether he signs with another team, stays with us, we're kind of working through all that. [President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti] has been talking to Nap a bunch. It's unbelievable."
During the 2016 campaign with Cleveland, Napoli set career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (101), plate appearances (645) and games played (150) in becoming a favorite among Tribe fans, who embraced the "Party at Napoli's" rallying cry. Last year, the Indians added slugger Edwin Encarnacion, leading to Napoli going to Texas, where he hit .193 with 29 homers, 66 RBIs and an 82 OPS+ in 124 games.
Napoli, 36, went unsigned until the Indians came calling on Feb. 28. That allowed him to leave the camp for free agents in Bradenton, Fla., in favor of reuniting with his old Cleveland teammates and having a chance to play in front of scouts in Cactus League games. The Indians have enjoyed having Napoli's veteran presence in camp this spring, but with Yonder Alonso and Encarnacion under contract, there was no room on the active roster.
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Francona said it was undetermined whether Napoli would head to Triple-A Columbus in order to stay in the organization.
"They were talking about going to Triple-A," Francona said. "Nap's first response was, 'I don't want to get in the way of somebody,' which is probably not surprising when you're talking about someone like Nap."
Davis also had trouble finding a big league job this winter, but he agreed to come to camp with Cleveland on his Minor League pact on Feb. 17. In his case, Cleveland realistically could put the veteran outfielder into the competition for an outfield job. This spring, Davis has shown that he can still impact a game with his legs, even at 37 years old.
Last year, Davis hit .235 with a .641 OPS and 29 steals in 117 games between stops with the A's and Red Sox. One season earlier, he batted .249 with 12 homers, 23 doubles, 74 runs, a .693 OPS and an American League-leading 43 stolen bases. According to Statcast™, Davis ranked 11th in the Majors in 2017 with a 29.3 Sprint Speed. The average age of the 10 players ahead of him was 24.9.
"He does an amazing job at age 37 of getting to his full speed right now," Francona said. "His full speed doesn't seem to be backing off. We had to play him quite a bit, because we wanted to get a good look at him. That's a pretty good test for a 37-year-old in Spring Training. He bounced back really well."
As things currently stand, the Indians project to have Bradley Zimmer in center field and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Davis can serve as a backup for all three outfielders, or start on days when one needs a break.
"He's comfortable here. We're comfortable with him," Francona said of Davis. "We all feel like he has a chance to help us win."
When Davis rejoined the Indians, that was his goal.
"I'm excited about this team and what this team's capable of doing," Davis said earlier this spring. "Honestly, it just feels right. It feels like home. It was a great welcome. The guys just really welcomed me back with open arms."
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.