MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have lacked versatility from the bench for the past two weeks. Prior to this weekend's series against the Twins, Cleveland addressed that need.On Thursday, when the Tribe had an optional workout at Target Field, the Indians recalled infielder Erik González from Triple-A Columbus and optioned lefty
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have lacked versatility from the bench for the past two weeks. Prior to this weekend's series against the Twins, Cleveland addressed that need.
On Thursday, when the Tribe had an optional workout at Target Field, the Indians recalled infielder Erik González from Triple-A Columbus and optioned lefty TJ House to the same affiliate. Gonzalez has been receiving rave reviews from manager Terry Francona since Spring Training and spent time playing multiple positions this season in the Minors.
Consider this an audition for him to be Cleveland's utility man.
"That's kind of the idea," Francona said. "Obviously, we think Erik's future is not as a utility player, but for the near term, we're trying to accomplish a couple things. I think it's kind of obvious by the moves we're making. Before the Trade Deadline, we're trying to look at as many of our guys as we can, because ... the guy you're looking for might be right under your nose.
"We want to have as much information before the Trade Deadline as we can, so we've tried to do that on a number of things. I think it makes sense. So Erik will kind of fill that spot for a while. We'll see how it goes. I honestly don't know how we'll play him. Even [Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations], we were talking about it and he goes, 'Don't worry about it. Let's just see how it works and we'll go from there.'"
Cleveland has had a need for a utility man since a roster crunch led to the club designating the versatile Michael Martinez for assignment on July 2. The Indians then dealt Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for cash considerations on Friday. Jose Ramirez can play a variety of positions, but he has been a part of the everyday lineup this season.
Gonzalez, who will be making his Major League debut, can fill a similar bench role as Martinez. Having Martinez on the roster gave Francona some flexibility for late-inning moves due to his ability to play an assortment of positions.
At Triple-A this season, Gonzalez played 70 games at shortstop (his primary position), but he also logged innings at second base, third base, center field and right field. In 81 games this year, he hit .296/.328/.420 with six homers, 22 doubles, one triple, 39 RBIs, 46 runs, nine steals, 15 walks and 63 strikeouts.
Ranked as the Tribe's 11th-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com, Gonzalez was named to the Triple-A All-Star team for his showing in this season's first half.
After optioning House to Triple-A, Cleveland has seven relievers (no left-handers) in its bullpen. The Indians have cycled through an assortment of lefties this season, with House the latest in a growing list of southpaws to pitch out of the 'pen after his callup on July 4. In four games, House struck out two, walked none, allowed six hits and posted a 3.38 ERA.
Francona pointed out that House only recently made the transition to relieving from starting.
"Sometimes when you're not sure how to use [a lefty], that can be harder than actually not having one," Francona said. "And it's not an indictment on TJ. TJ's been in the bullpen for all of about 12 days. His stuff has been playing up, but he's still getting used to bouncing back and things like that. So we'll give him some more time to do that, too."
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 listen to his podcast.