The first round of spring training roster cuts have been happening across major league baseball over the weekend, and the Cleveland Indians finally joined in Monday afternoon. As confirmed by the team on Twitter, pitchers Mike Clevinger, Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando have been optioned to Triple-A Columbus along with utility man Zach Walters. Pitcher Dylan Baker has been optioned to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and pitchers Adam Plutko and Will Roberts, who were in camp as non-roster invitees, have been reassigned to minor league camp.
Roster moves:— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) March 14, 2016
+ M Clevinger, R Merritt, S Morimando, Z Walters to Columbus
+ D Baker to Akron
+ A Plutko, W Roberts to Minor League camp
Most of these are no surprise -- players like Plutko, Roberts and Morimando were mostly just there to get some major league exposure -- but there were high hopes that young Mike Clevinger could make the roster out of spring; those hopes may have been misplaced.
This is nothing against Clevinger, of course, he is 25 years old and starting at Triple-A will be the highest point of his career in the minors so far. He was just caught up in one of the most highly contested positions on the Indians, the fifth starter position. There is still a chance he could see major league action at some point this year, but he probably would not have beat out Cody Anderson, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin for the position out of spring training, so now the Indians can give one of their several outfielders in camp more of a look.
Zach Walters is the only non-pitcher to be taken off the roster. Unlike Clevinger, this is bad news for Walters. It is looking more and more like his time to be a big-time contributor on the Indians is over, and if it comes down to needing another spot on the 40-man roster, I could see Walters being the odd man out and put on waivers. So far it has not come to that, but he will not be competing for an outfield spot or a role as a utility man out of spring training.
These moves clearly signify that Terry Francona and the rest of the Indians staff want more of a look at their many outfield possibilities. As of these latest roster cuts they still have Michael Martinez, Shane Robinson, Michael Choice, Robbie Grossman, Will Venable, Rajai Davis, Joey Butler, Collin Cowgill, Tyler Naquin, and James Ramsey competing to play some mix of center field and left field until Michael Brantley returns from his injury.
The roster currently sits at 53 players, which will need to be trimmed down to the final 25 before the season starts on April 4.