3/24/2014 9:08 P.M. ET
With Tony Plush absent, Morgan makes roster
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nyjer Morgan tried to keep a straight face, but the smile grew wider as he talked to a group of reporters on Monday morning. The outfielder came into Indians camp on a mission to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.
"I wanted to come out here and prove to everybody that I'm a great player," Morgan said. "And more than likely, I can help this organization. I worked hard this offseason. Mentally, physically, I feel really prepared. I feel that I've earned this spot. I've earned this situation.
"Hard work is what got me here, and the hard work is definitely not going to stop."
A spot opened on Cleveland's roster after the club determined that Michael Bourn's left hamstring strain would necessitate a trip to the 15-day disabled list for the center fielder to begin the season. In Morgan, the Indians have a fleet-footed outfielder capable of manning center field and affecting a game on the basepaths.
In parts of six big league seasons, the 33-year-old Morgan has hit .280 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .364 slugging percentage in stints with the Pirates, the Nationals and the Brewers. Last year, Morgan played for Yokohama in Japan, turning in a .294/.361/.434 slash line in 108 games. The Tribe signed him to a Minor League contract on Jan. 16 as a potential reserve outfielder.
"Nyjer's had a really good camp," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He's come in and done everything we could've asked of him in the way he's played the game -- offensively, defensively -- and in the way he's gone about his business day to day."
Morgan -- famous for an alter ego, Tony Plush, that has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past -- maintained a low profile throughout camp with Cleveland this spring. With a new set of eyes on him, the energetic outfielder wanted to show whom he really was as a person and player.
"It was very important," Morgan said. "Just want to leave all the other mularky behind me and basically just show the new me, the new veteran, the guy I am. Basically, I wanted to show them who Nyjer Morgan is, and not Tony Plush."
Asked if Plush also made the Opening Day roster, Morgan laughed.
"Yeah, he made it," Morgan said. "He's here. I'll know when to bring him out."
Told of Morgan's comment, Francona cracked a smile.
"We didn't need to hear that," the manager joked. "We only have room for 25, so Nyjer makes it and Tony doesn't. He is not part of the team."
In it for long haul, Bourn to start year on DL
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The more Michael Bourn thought about it, the less sense it made to try to rush through his rehab in order to be in the Opening Day lineup for the Indians. On Monday, the center fielder met with general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona to discuss the situation.
It was determined in that meeting that Bourn would open the regular season on the 15-day disabled list because of his strained left hamstring.
"I'd rather have my leg healthy and be ready to play for the long haul," Bourn said, "than try to make it for Opening Day just because."
Bourn, who tweaked his hamstring in a game against the Giants on March 16, has progressed only to running forward on the grass agility field at Cleveland's complex in Arizona. The center fielder said he might test his leg on the bases as early as Tuesday but that it was subject to change.
Bourn has been able to hit and throw, but the running program has been conservative given the importance of speed to his overall game. Because of the timing of the DL stint, Antonetti said that Bourn would miss at least the first four games of the season, meaning April 5 would represent the earliest possible return date.
"As we walked through it, it just seemed like it made sense to start him on the disabled list," Francona said. "What we want, all of our goals combined, are to have him back being Bourny. Not half of Bourny. Not part of him.
"We understand he'd play. If we asked him to, he'd play. We have no doubt about that. He'd go out there with one leg hanging off, but we need to have his speed impact our club, and so we need to let him try to build up properly so he can really help us."
Bourn, 31, hit .263 with six home runs, 21 doubles, six triples, 50 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and 75 runs scored in 130 games last year for the Indians, who signed him to a four-year contract worth $48 million two winters ago. Bourn had surgery on his left hamstring on Oct. 15, though the team has said the current injury is unrelated.
Bourn said he planned to be smart about his current comeback.
"I don't know percentage-wise, but I'm feeling OK," Bourn said. "I'm feeling pretty good. I know it's coming along. It feels much better than it did. I just want to make sure I'm healthy first, and then I'll start to ramp up to where I'm starting to get back in game shape."
Chisenhall makes Opening Day roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians told third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall on Monday that he would be included on the Opening Day roster. After the early-morning conversation, manager Terry Francona was even happier with that decision.
"Lonnie's responses to us," Francona said, "were by far the most mature, the most encouraging things we've heard him say since we've known him. That was probably the highlight of the day."
This spring, Chisenhall has been competing for at-bats at third base with cleanup hitter Carlos Santana, who projects to open the year as a part-time third baseman and backup catcher for the Tribe. Santana's transition to the hot corner put some addition pressure on Chisenhall, who has had inconsistent results in parts of three seasons in the Majors.
Francona is still not entirely sure how the at-bats will be divided this season at third base. Helping matters is the fact that the Indians do not have a full-time designated hitter, which is a role Chisenhall could fill on occasion.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti indicated that Chisenhall expressed a willingness to do whatever was asked of him this year.
"It's part of the maturation process," Antonetti said. "To hear Lonnie, in his own words, to say and take responsibility for being that player that has that team-first approach was really encouraging to hear."
Chisenhall is batting .308 with two home runs, five extra-base hits and eight RBIs. He added his second homer in his first at-bat of Monday's 8-3 win against the Reds.
Francona said it would take time to sort out exactly how Chisenhall would be used this season.
"There's some moving parts," Francona said. "I feel confident that Lonnie is going to do everything he can when asked, to try to help us win. That's what I'm confident in. I just think that you see a kid growing up right in front of your eyes. It's kind of fun. It kind of feels rewarding."
Emphasizing potential, Indians option Bauer
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As a former player, Indians manager Terry Francona understands that the day of a demotion is not always the best time for a detailed conversation -- but it was just that Monday morning for prospect Trevor Bauer.
Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti told Bauer he was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, taking the young right-hander out of the mix for Cleveland's final rotation spot. Bauer took the news in stride and had a productive discussion with the manager and GM.
"We kind of talked to Trevor at length this morning," Francona said. "We asked him, 'Are you ready to listen?' He said, 'Yeah.' He's a pretty thoughtful guy. We talked to him at length and tried to get him to understand where we view him."
With the 23-year-old Bauer heading back to the Minors, only right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin are left in the Indians' rotation battle. Veteran Aaron Harang, who was told Sunday that he would not make the team, opted out of his Minor League contract on Monday and joined the Braves as a free agent.
The fact that Bauer remained in the running until Monday was a testament to the work he put in over the winter. Through last season and into the offseason, Bauer overhauled the mechanics of his delivery. In 16 innings between Cactus League games and Minor League games this spring, the pitcher allowed 13 runs (12 earned) on 18 hits with 18 strikeouts against eight walks.
Cleveland acquired Bauer from the D-backs in the nine-player, three-team deal that also involved the Reds in December 2012.
"It was a high-profile trade," Francona said. He goes through mechanical changes because of an injury and is trying to get back to where he was, had a lot of hiccups last year. He comes into camp really thinking he's ready to go, because he worked so hard, and had a few more hiccups. The last two weeks, he has done everything in his power that shows us that his path is coming.
"And when it gets here, again, we want this kid to come here and stay here. So, finding consistency in what he does is very important. We have a lot of confidence in the fact that he will do that."
Antonetti echoed Francona's remarks.
"The one thing we're so encouraged about," Antonetti said, "is right now Trevor is far closer to being a very successful Major League pitcher than he was six months ago and than he was two weeks ago even. He's on that right path."
Quote to note
"He was really concerned about the external perception of what Nyjer was and Tony Plush was. [Manager Terry Francona] was great. He said, 'We love you for exactly who you are, the guy that you've been in camp.' That was actually the message to him today: Be that same guy. Go about your business the same way. Be the player you've been. Maintain that same energy level. That's the guy we liked and ultimately earned a spot on our team."
--Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, on Nyjer Morgan
• As part of Monday's roster reductions, the Indians optioned right-handed reliever C.C. Lee to Triple-A Columbus. In nine Cactus League games this spring, Lee posted a 3.24 ERA with 12 strikeouts and five walks in 8 1/3 innings.
"I think's C.C. Lee's future is burning bright," Francona said. "This may be more about wanting to make sure at the beginning of the year that we get him consistent innings. ... I'll be shocked if he's not helping us at some point, being a big part of our bullpen."
• Antonetti indicated that right-hander Shaun Marcum, who is working his way back from July surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, will most likely begin the season on the Minor League disabled list. Marcum logged one inning in a Minor League game on Sunday.
"He's progressing," Antonetti said. "I don't think he'll be ready for the start of Minor League games. Our goal with Shaun, as we've said from the beginning, is big picture. We want to make sure we put him in the best position to be successful, not only for the balance of this year, but for the balance of his career."
• Non-roster veteran Jason Giambi (fractured rib in his right side) began swinging a bat with contact on Sunday and was scheduled to hit off a tee and soft toss on Monday. The Indians have until Tuesday to determine whether Giambi will be added to the active roster and placed on the Major League disabled list.
• Cleveland reassigned non-roster first basemen Bryan LaHair and David Cooper to Minor League camp on Monday. Catcher Luke Carlin was told he would also be reassigned to the Minors, but he will remain with the big league club until camp breaks. Infielder Justin Sellers is expected to be optioned to the Minors within the next few days.
• The Indians are scheduled to play exhibition games against the Padres on Friday and Saturday at the University of San Diego. Francona noted on Monday that Cleveland would bring some extra players beyond its Opening Day roster to help in those contests.