The Cleveland Guardians will start the season with three rookies on their Opening Day roster, as catcher Bryan Lavastida, outfielder Steven Kwan, and left-handed reliever Konnor Pilkington have all earned spots. Conversely, outfielder Josh Naylor, relief pitcher James Karinchak, and catcher Luke Maile will all open the season on the Injured List.
Lavastida will serve as the primary back-up to starting catcher Austin Hedges after Maile, the Guardians’ top free agent signing of the offseason, suffered a left hamstring injury during spring training that will sideline him for the start of the season. The 23-year-old backstop rose through the Cleveland farm system last season, rising from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A in the span of a year. But his brief stint in Columbus only lasted all of seven games, so clearly this is earlier than the organization intended for him to be joining the big league club.
The 24-year-old Kwan slashed .435/.458/.936 in 23 at-bats this spring. Drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft, he was first promoted to Triple-A Columbus in August of last year, where he posted a slash line of .311/.398/.505 in 103 at-bats for the Clippers.
Pilkington has had a bit of a rough go of it this spring, carrying a 7.71 ERA, albeit in 4.1 innings pitched. The 24-year-old southpaw was traded to Cleveland by the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Cesar Hernandez last season. Pilkington was assigned to Double-A Akron, where he recorded a 2.33 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 38.2 innings for the Rubberducks.
Now that the Guardians’ Opening Day roster appears set, take a peek:
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Bryan Lavastida
Infield: Bobby Bradley, Yu Chang, Ernie Clement, Andres Gimenez, Owen Miller, Jose Ramirez
Outfield: Steven Kwan, Oscar Mercado, Amed Rosario, Myles Straw, Bradley Zimmer
Designated Hitter: Franmil Reyes
Starting Pitchers: Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie
Bullpen: Emmanuel Clase, Bryan Shaw, Anthony Gose, Nick Sandlin, Trevor Stephan, Sam Hentges, Eli Morgan, Logan Allen, Konnor Pilkington