03/30/12 7:39 PM ET
Wheeler, Duncan, Donald on Tribe's roster
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Seven players were called into manager Manny Acta's office to be informed they were being removed from Major League camp. Three others were told they would be sticking around for a few more days, but making the Opening Day roster was not in the cards.
"This is not my favorite day, but we have to do it," Acta said of trimming the roster. "It's a revolving door in the office. It comes with it."
There was, however, good news to deliver as well.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti announced that veteran reliever Dan Wheeler, utility man Jason Donald and outfielder Shelley Duncan will be on Cleveland's Opening Day roster. That leaves one spot up for grabs in the Tribe's bullpen and brings a little more clarity to Cleveland's bench situation.
In their latest roster reduction, the Indians optioned outfielder/first baseman Russ Canzler and left-hander Nick Hagadone to Triple-A Columbus. Catcher Luke Carlin, infielder Andy LaRoche, right-hander Chris Ray, lefty Chris Seddon and righty Robinson Tejeda -- all non-roster invitees this spring -- were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Antonetti noted that infielder Gregorio Petit, outfielder Felix Pie and catcher Matt Pagnozzi were informed that they would not be making Cleveland's big league roster. The trio will stay with the team for the next few days, however, and might travel with the club to Zebulon, N.C., for Tuesday's exhibition game against Class A Carolina.
Infielder Jose Lopez, who is vying for a utility role on the Indians, has been guaranteed a role in the Indians' organization at least through May. Lopez, who signed a Minor League contract this past offseason as a Major League free agent, fit the criteria for a new provision in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Any six-year big league free agents who sign a Minor League contract are now eligible to receive a $100,000 bonus and an automatic June 1 opt-out clause if they are not on the 25-man roster five days prior to Opening Day. For the Indians, Lopez and Wheeler both fell into that category, but only Lopez received the retention bonus and out clause.
The Indians have not yet determined whether Lopez -- a right-handed backup option for first, second and third base -- will begin the season with Columbus or on the Major League bench.
"At a minimum, he will be with us for the first two moths for the season at Triple-A," Antonetti said. "We can obviously still make the decision to add him to the roster, depending upon how the final pieces come together."
Right now, the only virtual locks for Cleveland's bench are backup catcher Lou Marson and Donald, who offers a reserve option for second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield. Duncan will make the roster as either the Indians' starting left fielder or a role player.
With a clear need for a backup center fielder, Antonetti noted that either Aaron Cunningham or Ryan Spilborghs will likely make the Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder. Spilborghs is in camp as a non-roster invitee and Cunningham -- out of Minor League options -- was acquired from the Padres in an offseason trade.
To this point, neither Spilborghs nor Cunningham have emerged as a favorite in the outfield competition.
"It hasn't happened yet," Antonetti said. "All of those guys, we feel, have gotten a fair opportunity in camp. If you look, I think each of them is close to 50 plate appearances, so they've had a fair opportunity."
In that way, the fight for the open outfield jobs has been disappointing to Acta.
"In a way, yeah," Acta said. "I was very happy with those guys coming into camp, because of the depth that they were going to provide. It's a little bit of a downer, because if you would've had three or four of those guys really light it up, then you feel great with the depth.
"Right now, I know in Spring Training it's tough to evaluate people, but so much for the depth right now with the way they have performed."
Now that Wheeler has been assured a place in the Indians' bullpen, the field for the lone remaining relief job has been whittled down to Frank Herrmann, Jeremy Accardo and Jairo Asencio. The Indians obtained Asencio, who is also out of options, from the Braves in exchange for cash on Thursday.
Asencio arrived in camp on Friday and will likely make his Cactus League debut for the Indians in Saturday's game against the Rangers.
"It'd be unfair to say we're going to grade him out on just two outings, but that's what it is," Acta said. "The guy can show up and be lights out or not be very good and we're still going to have to make a decision on that. He's a guy who's out of options, so it's a complicated matter."
Ray has an out clause that can take effect by April 3, but Antonetti said he anticipates having the reliever with Columbus to start the season.
Another unsettled battle rests at the back end of the Tribe's rotation. That competition has been reduced to right-handers Jeanmar Gomez and Kevin Slowey, who were both scheduled to pitch on Friday. Lefty David Huff strained his right hamstring in his start on Thursday, and it is not clear how much time he will miss due to the injury.
Gomez exited his outing on Friday in the fourth inning after tweaking his hip while stretching to make a catch at first base on a double-play groundout. The extent of the right-hander's injury was not immediately known.
Veteran right-hander Derek Lowe left his outing on Thursday due to back spasms, but Acta said the pitcher was still slated to start in Tuesday's exhibition game in North Carolina. Both Lowe and Antonetti indicated on Friday that they do not believe the pitcher will need to go on the 15-day disabled list.
"The initial read is that it's not too concerning," Antonetti said.