Three candidates are making their case to make the Indians as a bench player out of spring training.
Ryan Rohlinger, Elliott Johnson and Justin Sellers have all played at the big league level, but each has a career average under .220.
Yet each is tearing it up this spring. I still don’t see a spot for any of them.
Let’s take a look at the three infielders looking to knock Lonnie Chisenhall off the roster and take his place as an extra infielder this year. We’ll go in assuming the Tribe carries 13 bats to start the year, and knowing that 11 are locked up.
I happen to believe that Chisenhall makes the ball club out of spring, and I recognize that Utility man, Mike Aviles, could play third base on a regular interval, if needed. So, I’ve got Chisenhall on the roster, which would make 12 even though he can only play one position – not a good spot to be in since bench players for the Indians were so versatile for the Indians last year.
I also happen to believe that the Indians will only carry Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana to play catcher. When Gomes needs a break, Santana will slide to catcher, which leaves third base open for Chisenhall or Aviles. I also think David Cooper makes the club as an extra first baseman to spell Nick Swisher and possibly DH should an injury come up. Cooper is the thirteenth and final spot. Before you jump up and scream that he has a titanium plate screwed into his back, remember Cooper hit .300 in 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays. And he’s hitting again this spring.
Ryan Raburn is the fourth outfielder and will DH some, but can also play the infield. I think the versatility of Aviles and Raburn allows the Indians to keep a couple Giambi-type players, limited in their capacity, also like Chisenhall, in order to complete the 25-man roster. There’s no way Giambi does not make this roster, as I’ve read in other places recently.
It boils down like this: If the Indians have an injury up the middle, at second base or shortstop, then either Aviles, or Raburn, will likely fill in on a regular basis, leaving the bench short a middle infielder. I’m betting Francona wants more pop in the lineup and will sacrifice the possibility of that happening, knowing that he essentially has ten regular, everyday players including Aviles and Raburn.
Your guys, if you want another middle infielder, are Sellers and David Adams – who doesn’t have enough experience. Keeping in mind the Indians signed Adams, Cooper to Major League deals in the past few months, it’s a tough call. But I have a strong back, and so does Cooper following his surgery in 2013.
- 1. C Yan Gomes
- 2. 1B Nick Swisher
- 3. 2B Jason Kipnis
- 4. SS Asdrubal Cabrera
- 5. 3B Carlos Santana
- 6. LF Michael Brantley
- 7. CF Michael Bourn
- 8. RF David Murphy
- 9. BE Mike Aviles IF/OF
- 10. BE Ryan Raburn IF/OF
- 11. BE Jason Giambi DH
- 12. BE Lonnie Chisenhall 3B
- 13. BE David Cooper 1B/DH
Ryan Rohlinger: Hitting .500 through eight games with four runs batted in, Rohlinger makes a case of familiarity after playing 92 games at Columbus last year, with five ding-dongs and 25 runs batted in. Francona speaks about him like he’s a gutsy veteran. Kind of; he’s 30-years old and has been playing minor league ball for eight years. Rohlinger might be – and I stress might – an insurance policy in the minor leagues if Cabrera is shipped off mid-season. The light hitter is a slick fielder, committing zero errors last season at Columbus in 111 chances.
Elliott Johnson: A spring training invitee, Johnson has 13 total bases in just 16 at-bats, boosted largely from two triples in six hits. Those three-baggers brought in five runs, proving – at least in this small sample size – that Johnson might be able to produce runs in addition to playing anywhere on the field. In 2010, Johnson split 115 games between four positions, infield and outfield, all with a .950 fielding percentage or higher.
Justin Sellers: Traded for cash earlier this spring by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sellers has four hits in just seven at bats. A good fielder, don’t expect much from Sellers at the plate. In three years with the Dodgers – 266 plate appearances – Sellers hit under .200 with only 17 runs batted in. He is a tough sell for me.