2011 Spring Training Primer: Non-Roster Invitees

I welcome you to the yearly tradition here at The Tribe Daily, the Spring Training Primer!

We kick things off every year with a look at all the Non-Roster Invitees, also known as NRI's. These are the veteran players brought in that are just looking for an opportunity on the roster, prospects not yet on the 40-man just looking to show their stuff with the big league club and anyone else in between that isn't on the 40-man roster.

Each player gets profiled as we discuss what to expect from them in the spring and what they're fighting for.

$ - Indicates Minor League Deal
# - Indicates Cleveland Minor League Player
Previous Club Listed


R Doug Mathis - $Texas
What to Expect: Contention, Minor League Depth

The former Texas Ranger comes over with experience as both a starter and a reliever. That could make him valuable when it comes down to picking depth options to wait around in Columbus. If you prescribe to the notion that there is one rotation spot open, Mathis' chances are slim, but perhaps better than most of the NRI starters.

Still, Mathis will probably be looking for a spot in the organization first and foremost, which could be a challenge with all the pitching in the upper levels. Teams need an arm that they can just abuse in the early parts of the minor league season though. Not exactly what he'd want to fight for, but at least it's work.

R Yohan Pino - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Swing Man Contention, Minor League Depth

Yohan Pino is in the exact same position he was last year. But as time goes on, his chances of advancing past that position go down. Pino still hasn't made it to the majors, nor the 40-man roster. Teams just have too many Yohan Pinos for him to get a shot. His best opportunity would come from injuries, which didn't happen much last year.

Pino is still a nice arm to have in the minor leagues because he could probably be a swing man. You can throw his name into the rotation mix, but that is unlikely with the Indians trying to find out what they have. Pino figures to be at best a long relief option in Columbus, so they certainly won't strongly consider him for the rotation in Cleveland.

L Drew Pomeranz - #Ole Miss (2010 Draft)
What to Expect: Experience, Development

Last year's number one pick, Drew Pomeranz, will likely come into spring with the same agenda as Alex White, the number one pick before him. He stands no chance of making the rotation or the major league roster, the Indians just don't work that way.

He's just along for the ride, likely destined for a quick stop in Kinston, if he patterns his start after White's. The expectation and hope is that Pomeranz can get to Akron quickly and put himself on the track White has, the track for impending Major League arrival. Pomeranz is said to have higher upside though and with college experience under his belt, who knows how quickly he could move.

The Indians have been a little more aggressive in pushing their players through the system as of late and if Pomeranz dominates, the fact that he has secondary pitches that Alex Whtie doesn't have, could put him in line, if not ahead of White's progress. Spring will be about acclimation and experience for Pomeranz, but it could also be an opportunity to give us a glimpse into the future.

R Anthony Reyes - $Cleveland
What to Expect: Rehab

Yet again, Anthony Reyes is a NRI for the Indians and he is yet again looking to rehab. He's more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but as Jake Westbrook can attest, it can be a struggle. Reyes never had the greatest mechanics in the world, so adjusting to the fact they had to reconstruct his elbow, it has probably been even harder on Reyes.

Last year's failed attempt in Akron is behind him, with more time to rehab and build up his strength, but he still has a long road if he wants to make it back to Cleveland. The good news is, he'll probably be able to pitch from the outset. The bad news is, he probably will have to prove himself in the minors. Making whatever he does this spring irrelevant.

His main focus should be building up his arm strength and getting conditioned for the season. He isn't going to prove anything this spring, so his best bet is to use it as an extended rehab period with live action.

R Alex White - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Development, Future Contention

It was noted that Alex White used last year as a period of experience. He had no shot at the major league roster, but the Indians thought highly enough of him, despite not throwing a professional pitch, to bring him to big league camp. White used it as a spring board into a quick stint with Kinston and a successful year at Double-A Akron.

Now he's expected to headline a Columbus rotation unless he absolutely blows the doors off everyone this spring and shows advanced development with his secondary stuff. White should use spring to further develop and state his case for future consideration. He could end the year in Cleveland and if he has a good showing, it could speed up the period in which he gets there.


R Justin Germano - #Cleveland
What to Expect: Fringe Contention, Depth

This is the thrown-away pitcher that could. Justin Germano came over to Cleveland last year from Japan. He was in Akron and pretty much on the brink of getting released until some injuries hit and he was needed in Columbus. One thing led to another and the guy not only finished the year in Cleveland, he almost made it through the offseason with a 40-man roster spot.

The need arose though and Germano was finally ousted. But he's still with the organization and the club clearly thinks highly of the work he did last year as a depth arm. He'll probably "contend" for a bullpen spot at the major league level, but he should be a favorite to claim a depth spot in Columbus and be on stand-by in case Cleveland needs an arm.

R Zach Putnam - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention

Last year, Zach Putnam got an invite to big league camp, which clearly showed how much the Indians like him. This year, he's getting an invite based on the fact that the Indians think he can compete for a bullpen spot.

Putnam will be in the mix, but with other youngsters like Josh Judy (who is on the 40-man) also in the mix, he is probably more likely to be placed in Columbus to start the year, unless he absolutely makes it apparent he has no business being there.

He should still treat this invite like an opportunity for competition though. The more ground he makes up now, the less he'll have to in-season at Columbus. You're always one injury away from the show when you are pitching in Triple-A. If he gets on a hot-streak, he could be the first man-up.

R Bryce Stowell - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention

You could probably carbon-copy the spot on Putnam with Bryce Stowell. The fireball reliever is just on the edge of contention, but with no 40-man spot, he's on the outside looking in. Stowell has been fast-tracked after proving his health though and the expectation along with Putnam is that he'll be in Cleveland sooner rather than later.

He too could blow the doors off and make it necessary to be given a spot, but it is more likely he uses spring as groundwork for his eventual call-up.


C Juan Apodaca - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Minor League Depth

Juan Apodaca is taking over for Damaso Espino as the organizational catcher. He's got no shot at making the roster. He's likely destined for Akron or Columbus as a back-up, but he has one goal in spring.

Be the guy that catches a lot of innings early. Especially with Carlos Santana coming off the injured leg, Apodaca and others will be asked to carry the load early. Apoadaca knows his job, its to be a veteran backup in the minors and his inclusion on the NRI list is simply one to make sure the other catchers aren't worn down.

C Luke Carlin - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Minor League Depth

With the lack of catching prospects in the upper levels right now, Carlin is in a good spot. If Lou Marson ends up backing up Santana at the big league level, he could find himself in a starting battle with Paul Phillips in Columbus.

While the Clippers await the arrival of Chun Chen, Carlin could hold down the fort. One injury to anyone ahead of him and he could find himself in Cleveland. If the Indians were to decide Marson needed every day at-bats, they'd likely go with Phillips to back up Santana because of his more veteran status, but that shouldn't stop Carlin from trying.

C Paul Phillips - $Colorado
What to Expect: Depth

There could be actual need in Paul Phillips. With the Santana injury, there is a small percentage of uncertainty with the whole catching position. In addition to that, there is some concern over Lou Marson being a backup at the major league level from the get-go and ideas of him getting regular at-bats in Columbus would be more fitting.

That means Phillips could end up in a position not many thought of when the Indians signed him to a minor league deal this offseason. He could end up in the major leagues to start the season. One way or another he's probably earmarked to make the organization as a backup. It just becomes a matter of where. Is it in Columbus or Cleveland? There might not be much Phillips can do in that situation, considering it isn't really on him, but anything positive he does certainly won't hurt.

2B Jason Kipnis - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, 2nd Base Contention

The other high-profile name in the 2009 draft class will also be in big league camp this spring and some think he might even contend for a spot. It is very unlikely that Jason Kipnis wins the starting second base job, but less-likelier things have happened.

If anything, this spring will be a good chance for Kipnis to show that last year was no fluke and that he is in fact the real deal. If he can continue the run he was on last year that ended in the Triple-A playoffs, he'll be in Cleveland very soon. There isn't much holding him back, so Kipnis can use this experience to shorten his stay 2011 stay in Columbus.

2B Cord Phelps - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Utility Job Contention

Robert Phelps, the man they call Cord, stands a chance to win a major league roster spot after gaining versatility and being a big part of Columbus' championship team last year. Even though second and third base is unsettled, Phelps will likely not challenge for either spot.

He is more suited to challenge for a backup role. However if Phelps doesn't win it, it may not be because he doesn't deserve it. The Indians could opt to give Phelps regular playing time in Columbus at a variety of positions (including backing up Kipnis at second) in an effort to help him gain more experience at a variety of positions. With Kipnis and Chisenhall and Cabrera at short, the thought the Indians have with Phelps is a utility player.

Spring will be a time for him to continue to gain experience playing different positions and eventually be that everything guy for the club down the road.

SS Adam Everett - $Detroit
What to Expect: Utility Job Contention

Every year there is one NRI guy that probably stands as good as chance as anyone to win a roster spot. Last year it was Mark Grudzielanek and this year it is probably Adam Everett. Because of his above-average defense, Everett probably has an inside edge on the utility job, but there is one thing holding him back.

He hasn't played too much second base in his career. In fact he has played just one game in his major league career and has never played third. We don't know what he brings to the table versatility wise, which pretty much handcuffs the Indians. Let's assume Everett can play second, since Donald can play third (and may even win the job at third) there wouldn't be much of a need for Everett to play third. You could probably get away with having a utility player who can only play the two middle infield positions.

But if there is any case to make against Everett, it would be the uncertainty of him playing more than just shortstop, something he'll definitely have to address this spring.

3B Lonnie Chisenhall - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience

Like with Alex White, the Indians are likely committed to another number one draft pick in Lonnie Chisenhall starting the season in Columbus. Chisenhall's bat is considered ready, but after a year in which injuries really plagued his performance at Akron, the club probably wants to see him healthy so they can gain some reassurance he is indeed ready.

So really, this is just an opportunity for us to see Chisenhall in big league camp and how he's coming along. The assumption is Chisenhall will be ready sometime this year. If that is the case, this is the period in which he'll tell us how soon we'll see him in Cleveland in 2011.

3B Jack Hannahan - $Seattle
What to Expect: Third Base Contention, Utility Contention, Depth

The wild life expert Jack Hannahan will come in and likely compete for some sort of roster spot. With a load of experience at third base, he'll definitely be in the running for the third base job and with limited (and I do mean limited) experience at other infield spots, he'll probably be in the mix for a bench spot.

Hannahan brings a decent glove to the hot-corner, something the club doesn't really have right now, so he has that working in his favor. If the Indians really were just looking for placeholder at third until Chisenhall is ready, Hannahan would be the perfect fit because of his glove.

But that may not be what the Indians want and the lack of hitting is certainly not going to win him any roster spots. Hannahan played his entire 2010 season in the minor leagues, so it has been a full year since he's been in the majors. He has his work cut out for him if he wants a place on the team, but he certainly stands a chance.


LF Jordan Brown -#Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Roster Spot Contention, Depth

The signing of Austin Kearns pretty much says everything in terms of what the Indians think about Jordan Brown. There is nothing wrong with the kid, he has a solid bat and a great work ethic. He just hasn't received a real opportunity at the major league level because he really has no position.

So yeah, he'll contend for a spot this spring, but really it is an uphill battle for him. Unless someone like Travis Hafner gets an extended injury, Brown will likely be a bubble guy filling in where needed and it will earn him a trip to Columbus doing the same thing. It really is a question if he can still be considering a prospect at this stage as he is simply just a depth option for this organization.

CF Travis Buck - $Oakland
What to Expect: Roster Spot Contention, Depth

If Travis Buck wasn't an outfielder, I'd really feel really good about this signing. If Buck can come in and prove to be healthy (which is, as they say, a big if), he's still a young guy with a ceiling. He simply has been an enigma with his injuries, playing in just 170 games over the course of four seasons.

Really, the A's couldn't tell what they had in the kid because he was always hurt. There really are too many outfield options on this team though, so really, even if he does come in healthy, will there be a spot for him? It certainly can't hurt to have someone like Buck in the system at Triple-A for a few months in the early season, just in case. But this is one of those signings you would like a lot more if it was at a position of immediate need.

OF Chad Huffman - #Columbus (AAA)

What to Expect: Depth

Because of the glut of outfielders, I would think Huffman is going to have to even fight for a spot in Triple-A. The Indians must see something in him to pick him up when they did, so they might like the depth he gives them. But he certainly has to prove some things before hand.

Really, he's another warm body for this club in spring and likely a backup in Columbus. I think giving at-bats to Jordan Brown or Buck would be far more productive than giving them to Huffman, but really, there is no use in getting overly worked-up if that doesn't happen.

NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Friday, February  11th: 40 Man Pitchers

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