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Indians spring training position battles: The contenders

As the Indians 40-man roster and numerous non-roster invitees make their way to Arizona, there are a few jobs up for grabs. Today, an introduction to the competition.

David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

As a college football fan, I have cheered for a number of teams that used two-QB systems, starting with the Joe Germaine/Stanley Jackson Buckeyes and most recently with the Kain Colter/Trevor Semien Northwestern Wildcats. And over those years, I can't tell you how many times I have heard the saying, "If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one."

That used to drive me crazy, mostly because I thought Joe Germaine was the next big thing (he was even named Joe, like Montana and Namath!). But, even if it's not true in all cases, there is something to the underlying philosophy: if you aren't sure which guy will take a position, there is a good chance the right answer is none of the above.

Position battles are part of what makes spring training exciting, but if you have two SS (or 3B, etc.) you probably don't have one. The Indians have enough up in the air to keep camp interesting, but not so much that we need to worry that the right guys simply aren't there.

The Indians come to camp with much of the roster all-but-determined, including every starting position player (with one outside possibility). The bullpen is unsettled though, and there's a wide open spot at the back of the starting rotation.

Here are the 20 spots already accounted for:



Yan Gomes


Carlos Santana

DH, backup at C/1B/(and 3B?)

Nick Swisher

1B, occasional DH/RF

Jason Kipnis


Asdrubal Cabrera


Lonnie Chisenhall


Michael Brantley


Michael Bourn


Ryan Raburn

RF vs. LHP

David Murphy

RF vs. RHP

Mike Aviles

Utility Infielder

Justin Masterson


Corey Kluber


Danny Salazar


Zach McAllister


John Axford


Cody Allen

Set-up Man

Marc Rzepczynski


Bryan Shaw


Josh Outman


That leaves five openings - three more RP, a fifth starter, and one more bench spot, with the exact role TBD. Here is a quick intro to each race:

The Pen

I expect Terry Francona to carry an eight-man bullpen, and a handful of players could grab those slots. In my last look at the pen, I included Vinnie Pestano as a lock, but you folks expressed doubt. I am nothing if not a man of the people, so for now, Vinnie has to earn his way onto my roster. The other competitors include Nick Hagadone (who now has an option, making him a likely AAA candidate), CC Lee (who I think gets spot #7 and becomes one of our more trusted arms), Preston Guilment, Colt Hynes, Bryan Price, Blake Wood, Frank Herrmann, and some others. I don't see Matt Capps or David Aardsma as likely to make it, especially as they are not on the 40-man. Carlos Carrasco belongs in the conversation, too, as does Josh Tomlin. And, since relief pitching is so volatile, I am probably leaving out a handful of guys who could pitch their way into the picture, although they are all longshots.

Today's best guess: Pestano, Lee, Carrasco/Tomlin

Fifth Starter

The competition for this spot has been discussed here before, and the talk will only intensify in the coming weeks. Carrasco and Tomlin will be battling with Trevor Bauer and Shaun Marcum. We'll get into this in greater detail in a separate post soon.

Today's best guess: Carrasco gets the job; if Marcum takes a job in Columbus, he is next in line. Bauer gets time in Columbus to prove himself.

25th Man

This is where things get interesting. Does Santana prove a viable enough 3B candidate that we decide to carry a third catcher? Is there a need for a 5th OF? Would we rather add another DH/PH type, a la Jason Giambi?

Matt Treanor and Luke Carlin, neither of whom are on the 40-man, are the catcher options, but I think we're unlikely to add a third catcher.

If we want one more IF, the options are David Adams, Jose Ramirez, or non-roster invitee Elliot Johnson. I think Adams is the favorite. He'd be a right-handed complement to our lefty-hitting 2B and 3B and he plays solid defense at all three IF positions. Ramirez will get playing time in Columbus, and I bet we see him before the end of the year. Johnson would have to have a great camp to justify clearing a roster spot for him.

If we go OF, someone has to be added to the 40-man - one of Jeff Francoeur, Matt Carson or Nyjer Morgan. I don't see this happening. We already have four capable OF, with at least two options in each spot, plus Swisher can play if needed, and Aviles too.

The last option is a 1B/DH/PH. David Cooper is on the roster, as is Jesus Aguilar. Giambi is back in camp, but not on the 40 and is joined by Bryan LaHair. I think LaHair is more flash-in-the-pan than sleeper, and I don't think the Indians are going to rush Aguilar for a part-time role. I think Giambi's playing days are over. Cooper is an intriguing upside play, and I think he gets a shot to play his way onto the team.

Today's best guess: David Cooper hits enough to get a job, and his fit as a DH option keeps Santana free to hold down the #2 catcher spot.

We'll be tracking these battles throughout camp and updating the lists of competitors and favorites as we go.

Your turn to speculate: Who are the final five going to be?