03/27/09 4:30 PM ET
Tribe firming up remaining roster spots
Barfield, Dellucci leading candidates for final bench roles
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
Barring an unforeseen development between now and the end of camp, David Dellucci will retain his spot on the roster as the fourth outfielder. Manager Eric Wedge said that job is Dellucci's "as of today." So the Indians only have one open spot on the big league bench.Josh Barfield came into camp as the likely favorite for that spot. And though his bat has been quiet in Cactus League play, it doesn't appear as though he's lost that standing. Barfield, who started in left field for Friday's game against the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium, has adapted to the outfield and third base about as well as anybody could have expected, and, in addition to that versatility, he'd give the slow-footed Indians some much-needed speed off the bench. "[Speed] is definitely a priority," Wedge said. Outfielder Trevor Crowe, another candidate for the job, probably has more speed than anybody in big league camp, but he's still a work in progress at the plate and in the field. "He's had a nice camp," Wedge said of Crowe, who entered Friday batting .273 (12-for-44) with a .289 on-base percentage in 16 games. "He's much improved. But he's still not exactly where he needs to be. He has a tendency to play a little out of control ... But he definitely has our attention." Barfield, though, has commanded more attention in this camp. In addition to moving the natural second baseman all over the field, the Indians have also had him put in extra time in the cages in the mornings. Entering Friday, however, he was batting .196 (9-for-46) with a .229 on-base percentage. "It hasn't translated consistently into the games," Wedge said of Barfield's work. "What I do see in batting practice is his approach is better and the ball is coming off his bat better. He's headed in the right direction, but he's not there yet." With Luis Valbuena expected to serve as the everyday second baseman at Triple-A Columbus and Asdrubal Cabrera locked in at the position at the big league level, Barfield had no choice but to adapt to a utility role, and it appears he'll have the job shortly. Veteran Tony Graffanino has had a strong camp but has never appeared to be under real consideration for the job. The 36-year-old Graffanino is versatile enough to play at first, second and third and in left field, but he doesn't add anything to the equation in the speed category. Dellucci doesn't add much to that category, either. And although he's guaranteed to make $4 million this season, he entered camp -- and he'll enter the regular season -- in a tenuous position. The Indians want to see more consistency from Dellucci on the offensive side. "His bat speed is better," Wedge said. "He still needs to continue to get at-bats. He misses pitches he needs to hit from time to time. The challenge is going to be where he plays and how much he plays." Even if he makes the club, Dellucci isn't expected to see a great deal of action. Left fielder Ben Francisco and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo have the outfield corners locked up, and third baseman Mark DeRosa, Barfield and utility infielder Jamey Carroll could also get some starts in the outfield. As far as the other roster decision involving the last spot in the bullpen is concerned, the Indians will take a little more time with that one. Left-hander Zach Jackson (5.65 ERA in five appearances) and right-hander Vinnie Chulk (2.13 ERA in eight appearances) are the leading candidates, and the job might be Jackson's to lose because he could serve as a complement to the Indians' three right-handed starters. Jackson will get the start against the Diamondbacks in Tucson on Saturday and Chulk will follow him. The Indians are using that game to ensure both arms are stretched out to handle multiple innings, which should be a key for that role.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.