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Indians preparing roster for Saturday’s doubleheader

Week in transactions: An unexpected ALCS hero will make his 2017 debut on Saturday.

MLB: ALCS-Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

There were no transactions affecting the 25-man or 40-man rosters this week, but there are couple looming moves on the horizon.

Abraham Almonte and the outfield

Almonte, who hasn’t played with the Indians since May 15th, has been in Columbus on a rehab assignment since June 8th. It was his injury that prompted the Indians to bring up Bradley Zimmer, and the everyday job that he had before his injury isn’t there anymore. In fact, the only role he’d have on the 25-man roster (assuming he replaces Daniel Robertson) would be to spell Lonnie Chisenhall against left-handed pitchers, and even that role would only be until Brandon Guyer is healthy. However, the Indians do have an option year remaining on Almonte, saving them from having to choose between DFAing Almonte or Austin Jackson. Yes, they could option Bradley Zimmer, but maximizing your depth chart takes a back seat to winning baseball games, and the Indians are going to win more games with Zimmer in Cleveland.

So tl;dr: When Almonte’s rehab assignment is complete, the Indians will probably option him back to Columbus. If Guyer has a setback, the Indians might choose to activate Almonte and DFA Daniel Robertson.

The back of the rotation

This weekend the Indians play four games in Minnesota, including a day-night doubleheader. One of those starts will be by the returned fifth starter, and the other will be a spot start, serving as the doubleheader’s 26th man.* Mike Clevinger will return as the fifth starter, while Ryan Merritt, who Tribe fans last saw shutting down the Blue Jays in the ALCS, will pitch the other game as the 26th man.

Here’s where the roster machinations could get a bit interesting. With Michael Brantley away from the club for the weekend, the Indians could utilize an extra reliever on Friday, send that reliever back to Columbus to make for Mike Clevinger on Saturday, and then send down Kyle Crockett on Monday to make room for the returning Michael Brantley. However the Indians do it, they should have at least eight relievers available in all four games against the Twins.

*For scheduled doubleheaders, each club is allowed 26 players on their major-league roster for that day only. Most of the time that “26th man” is one of the day’s starting pitchers.

Latest 25-man/40-man Roster

These totals don’t include Thursday afternoon’s game, in case you’re wondering. Edwin Encarnacion now has a higher OPS than Francisco Lindor, which is amazing and horrifying at the same time, depending on which player’s trend you’re examining. EE’s value to the team is going to be based almost entirely on his bat, and the above Wins Above Replacement stat is also based on how the player compares to his positional peers, so that’s why Lindor still is the most valuable position player on the club. But given where Edwin was even a couple of weeks ago, that 0.3 WAR is a most welcoming sight.

Jason Kipnis didn’t play either Wednesday or Thursday, which gave Erik Gonzalez two starts at second base. He’s listed as day-to-day (neck spasms). Even before the injury Kipnis has been struggling at the plate, and that may mean he slots in lower in the batting order after he returns. Encarnacion was the cleanup hitter on Thursday, flipping spots with the struggling Carlos Santana, and that configuration should hold for a while.