The first edition of the primer will go over Non-Roster Invitees to Big League Camp. This list is comprised of Minor League Free Agents (Veterans looking for another shot), Triple-A and Double-A players that are on the cusp of the Major Leagues, and other minor leaguers just in the mix for depth purposes for the dog days of spring in the Arizona heat.
Each player will be briefly profiled in terms of their situation and if they are fighting for a job or not. $ - Indicates Minor League Deal # - Indicates Cleveland Minor League Player Previous Club Listed
R Yohan Pino - #Columbus(AAA) What to Expect: Fringe Contention, Experience
Yohan Pino came over to Cleveland in the Carl Pavano trade last year. He was a Rule V candidate in the offseason, but not only did he not get added to the 40-man, he went unselected in the Rule V Draft.
The former Twin farmhand now gets an invite to big league camp where he'll provide depth and fight for prime depth position. He's still young in baseball terms, but as far as prospects go, he's getting up in age. Pino showed his stuff at the Triple-A level last year, and can state a case with a good spring.
Chances of making the club aren't high, but he can establish himself as one of the "first arms" called-upon for the regular season if starters (or relievers) go down due to injury or lack of performance.
R Anthony Reyes - $Cleveland What to Expect: Rehab
Don't expect to see Anthony Reyes in a Spring Training game this March. Reyes is purely with the big league club to rehab from Tommy John surgery.
Reyes was outrighted off the 40 man roster and re-signed to a minor league deal to make room. It's highly doubtful he even pitches in 2010.
R Alex White - #North Carolina(2009 Draft) What to Expect: Experience, Development
For not throwing a single pitch during the 2009 season, Alex White should feel good about his big league camp invite. Last year's first round pick of Cleveland has already received a big league invite, showing the Tribe's willingness to advance him throughout the system rather quickly.
Rumor is that White will start 2010 with Kinston, but he has a chance to show his stuff to Tribe fans and followers for the first time. White did pitch in the Instructional Leagues, but this will be his first exposure to many. He notched 12 innings and didn't give up a run during Instructs.
Expect to get some clarification on how the Indians plan on using White during the Spring. Most guys, especially ones in White's position, come out of the pen anyway, but what he throws, and hopefully the Indians themselves, will tell us more about the plans for the first round pick.
L Mike Gosling - $Cleveland What to Expect: Fringe Contention, Depth
Mike Gosling spent the 2009 season with the Cleveland organization. He signed on with Columbus during the year and eventually made it up in September as a depth option. He's been moved from the bullpen to the rotation as well.
Chances of him making the roster are slim. He's more of a spring innings eater/Columbus roster filler at this point. Him taking chances away from others is not an option.
R Jason Grilli - $Texas What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention
The 33-year-old Twitter expert, Jason Grilli comes back to the AL Central after stints with Colorado and Texas, looking to find a role in the front end of the Indians bullpen.
Of all the names the Indians have going for a bullpen spot, Grilli probably has the best chance. Experience beyond just major league experience, but within in the division and in a multitude of roles is a huge plus.
Grilli can earn a base salary of $800,000 if he makes the major leagues. Jason dropped a hint about signing with a team early in the offseason on his twitter account, going as far as tweeting a picture of his signed contract, and it was eventually known the contract was with Cleveland.
Jason's best years were in Detroit during a run from 2006 to 2008 where he carried a 4.31 ERA in 170 plus innings of work for the Tigers. He's done everything from starting to long relief to short relief. So that's the big plus if he were to make the team.
Expect Grilli to be a major player this spring in the battle for the bullpen.
R Frank Herrmann - #Columbus (AAA) What to Expect: Fringe Contention, Development
Frank Herrmann is another pitcher the Indians decided to move to the bullpen after their 2009 meltdown. The move was probably for the better as Herrmann's future probably wasn't in the rotation.
The Tank's response to moving to the pen was nothing but success. However he didn't garner a big league call up and was left off the 40-man roster during the offseason. After avoiding selection in the Rule V, Herrmann will probably return to the Columbus pen and is likely on the outside looking in as far as opportunities though.
It isn't because of performance though. Perhaps a good spring will open up some eyes.
R Josh Judy - #Akron (AA) What to Expect: Experience
Josh Judy followed up his brilliant year at Akron with an even more brilliant stint in the Arizona Fall League. After finishing up the year as Akron's closer (due to an injury to Vinnie Pestano), Judy was 2-2 in 17 innings pitched with a 1.59 ERA. He struck out 20, walked 8 and didn't give up a home run.
He probably stars the year in Columbus' pen, but he's in the position many of the other Indians minor leaguers are. He can establish himself higher on the pecking order when it comes to first call from the big leagues.
R Zach Putnam - #Akron (AA) What to Expect: Experience, Development
Zach Putnam's rise through the Indians system is nothing short of impressive.
Mostly because Putnam hasn't had dominant numbers. He's impressed the club with his raw ability and versatility to the point where he was the first 2008 Draft pick to make it to Akron. After starting 2009 in Kinston's rotation, Putnam was moved to the bullpen and immediately called up to Akron.
He may start 2010 back in the Akron bullpen, but he could be up to Columbus rather soon and on the MLB radar by the end of the season, especially with a good performance this spring against the big leagues. It's still unclear what the Indians are planning on doing with Putnam as he made a few starts in the Arizona Fall League. For all we know, he could be in the Aeros rotation rather than their bullpen.
Either way, he'll be in a position much like Judy if he's a reliever, a chance to establish pecking order. If he's moved to the rotation, the sole focus will probably be on building him up as a starter and working on his pitch selection.
R Saul Rivera - $Washington What to Expect: Bullpen Contention
Saul Rivera is another veteran with limited success at the major league level that could contend for a bullpen spot.
Where Rivera has a leg up on a guy like Jason Grilli and the other contenders is his past experience with the Indians new manager, Manny Acta. Rivera was a dependable work-horse for Acta during their time in Washington.
For three straight year, Rivera threw 60 innings and kept an ERA under 4.00 from 2006 to 2008. In '07 and '08 he threw 93 and 84 innings, all out of the bullpen. Maybe that finally caught up to him in 2009, who really knows. But Rivera lasted just as long as Acta did and he struggled.
Now Rivera is reunited with his old skipper and years prior to 2009 would be positives working for Rivera. Another one would be his Winter League performance for Puerto Rico, where he carried a 2.29 ERA through 19 innings.
So he's definitely in the mix. River has a opt out clause for May 15th, so he can start the year with Columbus and be called upon before that date (unless he chooses to stay beyond the 15th of May). I wouldn't be shocked to see Rivera at some point though, just because of Acta's familiarity with him.
R Jamey Wright - $Kansas City What to Expect: Bullpen Contention
The newest and probably last minor league free agent addition for the Tribe comes over from yet another AL Central team, the Royals.
You may be thinking, oh gosh, the Royals, but in reality he had a decent year for Kansas City. He was mainly their innings eater (led all Royal pitchers in appearances). He held opponents to a .247 average and led all but six other relievers in innings.
Wright fits in the Grilli mold and obviously provides some more competition, especially since he was big part of a bullpen in the major leagues last year. Expect him to be a part of the mix just as much as everyone else.
A familiarity with the division can't hurt his cause either.
C Damaso Espino - #Columbus (AAA) What to Expect: Depth
With the amount of catchers already on the 40 man roster, there wasn't much need to bring any more to big league camp.
But Damaso Espino returns for the second straight year as a reliable depth option. He was a backup to Carlos Santana to start 2009 and could potentially do the same in 2010 depending on Wyatt Toregas/Lou Marson or even return to Akron.
1B Beau Mills - #Akron (AA) What to Expect: Experience, Development
One of three first round picks of the past few year is Beau Mills, but all the attention seems to be on the previous two.
Mills earns another call to big league camp and is in a different position than he was last year. Now a full-blown first baseman, Mills may have to start at the same level he did last year. If he does make it Columbus from the start, he still has a lot to prove after a bit of a fall-off.
Many claim Double-A as the level you can tell if a prospect is for real or not. Some of the numbers from Double-A may indicate Mills' great production in the minor leagues was a product of feasting off weak pitching prior to reaching Akron.
It's his chance to turn that thinking around. He's still young and even though Matt LaPorta has a chance to entrench himself at first base, if you can prove you can hit, you'll get your opportunity. Mills will be battling to show he can start the year at Triple-A.
2B Mark Grudzielanek - $Minnesota What to Expect: Utility Job Contention
After a few years with the Royals, Mark Grudzielanek is just looking for one more chance.
An injury was a big reason for his absence in 2009. After spending some time in the Twins minor league system, a healthy Grudz comes over looking to win a backup job with the Tribe.
Primarily a second baseman, Grduz can also play shortstop.. But can he do third base? He's got 31 career games at the spot, but if he makes the roster, you have to wonder if a guy like Andy Marte will be needed to play the corner spots.
Word is he is healthy. If that's the case, he has to be considered one of the favorites to win a backup job. He's a veteran leader with loads of experience, he's been in the Central and a long with a solid glove, he's shown he can hit the ball a little as well.
If he's the favorite, then he won't have to do too much beyond showing he is healthy.
SS Luis Rodriguez - $San Diego What to Expect: Utility Job Contention
Brian Bixler, Mark Grudzielanek, Andy Marte, some of the other names will get more discussion than Luis Rodriguez.
The former Twin is easily forgettable, but after spending two years in San Diego, the infielder returns to the Central to fight for a utility spot.
The positives when it comes to Rodriguez boil down to his ability to play all over the infield and his past in the AL Central.
Things are working against him though. He'd have to have a Mike Rouse-like spring, combined with some disappointment from the likes of Bixler and Grudz to win the utility job, but don't count him out. He's committed just 18 errors in 312 career games.
A sound defensive player at every position on the infield can be valuable to a team, but will it be enough?
SS Niuman Romero - $Cleveland What to Expect: Depth
Niuman Romero didn't do anything wrong.
Yet we like to blame him as if he was the one who held Jordan Brown back from being promoted last year.
Romero is strictly a utility player for the minor leagues. He was on the 40 man to end the season, but only as an emergency player. He was outrighted and re-signed to a minor league deal this offseason. He'll probably return to Columbus for the 2010 as their utility player.
The cup of coffee with Cleveland, was probably his last, at least for the Indians, unless something goes terribly wrong, or he becomes Omar Vizquel overnight.
3B Lonnie Chisenhall - #Akron (AA) What to Expect: Experience, Development
Lonnie Chisenhall makes it three-for-three with first round picks of Cleveland making it to big league camp. 2008's first rounder put on a show in 2009 and established himself atop many prospect rankings as Cleveland's third baseman of the future.
Regarded to have one of the "sweetest swings" in all of the minor leagues, Chisenhall is just in camp to show off.
Seriously... Carlos Santana was in this position last year. Chisenhall will start in Akron no matter what and if continues his climb, could reach Columbus by years end, or be on the Santana track to start 2011 in Columbus and be in the majors later that year.
Either way, this is his chance to show everyone why he's highly regarded. He has nothing to really win and no depth to establish. He's locked in if he keeps it up, so it's time to strut his stuff.
3B Brian Buscher - $Minnesota What to Expect: Fringe Contention, Depth
The former Twin is making the in-division switch to Cleveland on a minor league deal. What Cleveland wants with Brian Buscher is still not clear to me.
Simply put, Buscher is just kind of another warm body. Andy Marte is expected to be in the mix for one of the last roster spots, which would mean he would be the primary first base and third base backup.
We'll get into that battle later, but Buscher's shot of making the major league roster is very slim. Making the Columbus roster isn't as slim, but still on the short side. Perhaps if a guy like Shelley Duncan doesn't win a spot on the big league club, he'll be the starting first baseman in Columbus. Wes Hodges will man third and Buscher is left to probably be a backup corner infielder.
And even then, I could see them rather giving those extra DH/First Base at-bats to someone like Stephen Head.
So Buscher is sort of just a warm body, out there looking to prove he belongs. Maybe he'll be in Columbus as a backup, who knows. He could just be dumped before the season as well.
LF Shelley Duncan - $New York (AL) What to Expect: Backup-Plan, Depth, Roster Spot Contention
The International League MVP comes over from New York to Cleveland, looking to provide some insurance.
In fact, we should just name Shelley Duncan "The Insurance Agent."
The guy is crazy, flat out. He is the first one in on a fight, he loves bashing forearms with other players and he always has a deranged look on his face.
He can also smack the living crap out of the baseball.
The brother of Chris Duncan and son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan hit a lot of home runs for Scranton Wilkes-Barre last year en-route to a IL MVP Award. He was mainly brought in as a backup plan to the possibility of Matt LaPorta not being ready for the season, but he does have a shot at winning a roster spot regardless.
It would be unusual circumstances for that to happen though. Duncan can play some outfield, but he's primarily a first baseman. But if the Indians were to put someone like Duncan on the roster, he'd probably have to have third base capabilities as well.
I can see Duncan going down to Columbus as some added punch for that lineup, maybe keep the seat warm for Beau Mills. Maybe be on stand by just in case something upstairs went wrong. Either way, it's going to be an interesting spring with him around.
LF Austin Kearns - $Washington What to Expect: Roster Spot Contention
A lot of people are probably wondering if this is 2007, not 2010. Austin Kearns was always one of those names that had the possibility of being moved and Cleveland was always in the market for an outfielder.
A few years later though, Kearns is in Cleveland and like Saul Rivera, is reunited with a former skipper in Manny Acta.
The realistic shot for Kearns comes in a backup role. Trevor Crowe is a talented outfielder, but does he provide much pop with the bat? Kearns can play multiple positions and maybe be a threat with the stick, which would obviously favor him as an option.
He would also be more of a veteran off the bench.
It all depends on A) What the Indians are looking for and B) How Kearns and Crowe do in the spring. I believe the main thing is coming down to one outfielder to backup everyone. Mike Brantley can play center if Grady ever sits, which would favor Kearns, even though I'm sure he play center in a pinch. It would eliminate the need for Crowe to be there.
So with that, it comes down to desire and performance. Kearns will have to fight. It isn't even out of the question he could win the starting job. Again, it all comes down to what the Indians desire in terms of that position. Do they want Brantley starting the year in Cleveland? It is still a little bit unknown as far as the Indians thoughts on the matter.
But that's why we have Spring Training.
Kearns is very much in the running. He's the biggest Minor League Free Agent name the club brought in, he has ties to Acta, and the club has an outfielder spot open. His odds of making the club are higher than most.
NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Tuesday, February 16th: 40 Man Pitchers