After my time in Spring Training last week, it was pretty clear who would make the final roster. Kazmir definitely won the fifth starter job. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Carrasco was good enough to cause the brass to pause a bit. But it just makes sense to keep Kazmir and give Carrasco more time to fine tune his command in AAA after coming off Tommy John surgery. He and Bauer are definitely on the move upward though and probably sooner than later. It all depends on the success, health or failure of the other starters. No one is secure in the starting rotation except maybe Masterson. I think Francona will go as far as he possibly can with him regardless of early results.
The bullpen is solid and the inevitable odd man out is Nick Hagadone. When Giambi is added to the roster, Hagadone will likely be sent down. He is a great insurance policy in AAA though and will be back to the majors very soon. He pitched well this spring but not outstanding. If he doesn’t develop further into a more dominant pitcher, I will honestly be disappointed. In my mind, once that change is made, the Indians management clearly picked the best 7 pitchers for the bullpen.
The everyday players could have been a bit different, but I agree with the choices. As others have alluded, Giambi was a huge “presence” in the camp and will be a good steadying influence to start the season. The Indians need players and coaches that expect to win and know how to win. Giambi and Swisher will clearly help in that area (as will Francona). However, Zeke Carrera had a very good spring as did Cord Phelps. Fortunately, we can still retain Phelps in the minors. The only other decision I was wondering about was back-up catcher. In my mind, Yan Gomes is a better player right now than Lou Marson. The reason Marson was kept is that they supposedly feel that Gomes has starting catcher potential. Because of this, they want him to play every day. That is why he was sent down. We will see how long that lasts if Marson struggles with the big club.
Another thing is pretty clear, don’t expect the same lineup on a daily basis. There will be major shifts in the lineup throughout the weeks ahead. That is because our bench is so much better than in the past. Aviles really deserves to play about 3-5 times a week and Giambi about 1-2 times per week. Rayburn deserves some time also and Marson will have to spell Santana 1-2 times per week. This will give Francona flexibility along with being able to shift Swisher, Aviles, and Rayburn to the outfield. I really like the Tribe roster and it is the best I have seen in years. They are not spectacular for sure but very good.