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There are 17 days until Opening Day, and while there are some roster battles going on, the more important decisions will be whether some regulars (and important depth) will be healthy enough to play on
March April 3.
Carlos Carrasco - his throwing elbow was examined after his outing on Monday. An MRI showed no structural damage but show swelling in the elbow. He’s going to long-toss today (March 17th) have a bullpen session tomorrow (March 18th), and make a spring training start on March 24th. If there’s no further setbacks, he would be in line to make a start in Texas.
Jason Kipnis hasn’t played since March 10th, and was officially shut down on March 12th with a right rotator cuff strain (his throwing arm). He’s going to meet with a doctor today (March 17th) to discuss further treatment, so it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll be in uniform on March 3.
Michael Brantley has been playing in Minor League games, and if everything goes right could be in the lineup on Opening Day.
Cody Anderson hasn’t pitched since March 8 with a strained UCL in his throwing arm. He’s going to meet with a doctor today to discuss his options. At the very least he won’t be throwing for a while, the worst case would be Tommy John surgery, in which case he won’t be pitching in a game until at least the late spring of 2018.
Yandy Diaz has been battling a groin strain since early March, and while he shouldn’t miss too much more time (he played on March 14th), the injury was costly because he was battling for a roster spot, and with Jason Kipnis projected to start the season on the DL, that would given Diaz some potential playing time. But now I think Diaz is starting the season in Columbus no matter what happens.
Anderson and Diaz weren’t locks to make the 25-man roster to begin with, so there would be no major-league changes necessary there.
If Carrasco has to miss a scheduled start or two, the Indians would not need to call upon another starter, as the Indians have off-days after their first two series. The first time they’d need a fifth starter would be on March 15th. So the Indians would replace Carrasco with either a reliever or another position player (see Kipnis).
If Kipnis can’t go on Opening Day, the Indians have several options. They could either replace Kipnis with Erik Gonzalez or (gulp) Michael Martinez, or move Jose Ramirez to second and go with Giovanny Urshela. Urshela and Gonzalez are both on the 40-man roster, while Martinez would have to be added. That would also open up a spot for a utility infielder, which could be filled by one of the three mentioned or a player like Ronny Rodriguez.
Another setback for Brantley would mean that both Abraham Almonte and Brandon Guyer would get more playing time, and the Indians would have a spot open for a bench player, whether an outfielder or infielder. Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer have impressed this spring, though I doubt they’d add either player to serve in a reserve role (though if Brantley would miss a long period of time, that might change things). Austin Jackson could also be added to the roster, and both Michael Martinez and Daniel Robertson can play in the outfield.
If you’re wondering who the Indians would jettison from the 40-man in order to add one of the NRIs, LHP Hoby Milner is likely going to be offered back to the Phillies. If Cody Anderson does have to have surgery, then he would be added to the 60-day DL, opening up a second 40-man roster spot.
Optioned LHP Tim Cooney and RHP Perci Garner to Columbus (AAA)
Optioned RHP Dylan Baker to Akron (AA)
Cooney has an injured forearm, and needed to be optioned by March 12th to avoid having place him on the big-league roster. Baker is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Garner, who pitched with the Indians in August and September, should return at some point during the season.
Optioned C Francisco Mejia to Akron (AA)
Mejia had zero shot at making the major-league roster, but he was impressive in the few opportunities he got. The 21-year-old is going to be starting in Akron, where he’ll get a serious test both at the plate and behind it. There’s still some kinks in his defensive game to work out, but the tools are all there, including a great throwing arm.