McCutchens 5 spot and a peek at the Indians Roster
Andrew McCutchen went off today in spring training action vs. Philadelphia. He is likely to start the season as the Indianapolis Indians centerfielder, but for now he is tearing it up in Spring Training. McCutchen went 5-5 with a home run and three doubles. His first four hits came off of Jamie Moyer with his fifth off of Brad Lidge. In 25 spring games he is batting .308 with two home runs and 7RBIs.
Even with his performance today, you can still expect the Pirates top outfield prospect to be the Tribe’s leadoff hitter on April 9th. The reason is basic business. This comes from Dejan Kovacevic in his game recap for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
…management’s stance is that he needs more seasoning with Class AAA Indianapolis. For another, if he is held off the roster for part of the coming season, the team can retain his major league rights for an additional year down the road
Earlier this morning the Pirates announced a few more moves. Steve Pearce and Robinzon Diaz have been assigned to AAA. You will see both of them in the opening day line up. Diaz will be the Tribe’s starting catcher after Pittsburgh made Jason Jaramillo (off season trade involving Ronny Paulino) the back-up to Ryan Doumit. Diaz spent the final week of the ’08 season with the Indians after an August trade with Toronto. Pearce will be the Indians everyday first baseman. A year ago he made the move to right field and he was never comfortable in the field or at the plate. Today he said all the right things to Jenifer Langosh:
I’m just going to go down and take it serious,” Pearce said, just before leaving McKechnie Field on Saturday morning. “It’s hard right now. I wouldn’t get the at-bats if I were to make the team. And without constant at-bats, I don’t think I can be the best I can be. I need the at-bats to find a sort of comfort zone and then let the rest play out.”
A season ago Pearce appeared in 103 games for the Indians batting .251 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. He played in right field for 67 games batting .243 with an OBP of .300. Compare those numbers to his .296 average and .366 OBP in 32 games at first base. I understand it is a smaller sample size. Pearce had 263 at bats as a left fielder and 98 at first. Taking the numbers out of the equation you could tell Pearce was a happier baseball player when he was at first base compared to left. I’m sure some players and managers will say it’s not that big of a deal, but I remember talking with him about it last year and he brought a different attitude to the batting cages and the game when he knew he was at first base.
The moves today just about fill out the Indians starting infield for April 9th. Robinzon Diaz will be the opening day catcher. 2008 MVP Neil Walker will be open at third. Either Brian Bixler or Luis Cruz will be the shortstop. If the Pirates don’t make a minor trade to strengthen their bench I think Bix will be with the Bucs and Cruz will be with the Tribe. Switch-hitting Shelby Ford will be the second baseman and we now know Pearce will be at first. The Pirates have a week to cut their roster from 40 to 25. So expect more moves this weekend and early next week.
Here is more on Bixler who is making a favorable impression this spring. Chuck Finder had this to say about Bixler in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
He added three hits, two stolen bases and two double plays Tuesday night to a spring portfolio that already placed him amid the spring leaders among regulars in batting average, at .333, and triples, with three. And he also has adapted to second base so adroitly that his utility, his versatility plus his bat off the bench could earn him a roster spot come opening day, rather than a return, at 26, to Class AAA Indianapolis for a third season with management’s intent of playing him every day.
After reading that let’s keep Bixler in Pittsburgh and add C Miguel Perez, INF Pedro Lopez, INF Anderson Machado, and 1B Jason Delaney to the roster. The outfielders will be Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Jeff Salazar, and I’m not sure about who will be the fourth outfielder. The names to consider are Nyjer Morgan, Larry Broadway, Adam Boeve, and Ryan Mulhern. Morgan is likely to be with the Pirates, but he is struggling this spring. I’m adding him even though it’s 80/20 he’s with the big club. Broadway was signed this off season and has spent the past two seasons playing for the Columbus Clippers. Boeve and Mulhern may be the odd men out after spending last year with the Indians. Just typing that sentence reminds me it’s a business. I really like Adam, but he appears to be a body more than a prospect.
The Indians starting rotation will feature right-hander Jimmy Barthmaier, lefty Tom Gorzelanny, righty Virgil Vasquez, right Daniel McCutchen, and the #5 spot is up for grabs. IF Jason Davis is not in the Pirates bullpen he will be a starter with the Indians. I think he’ll be in Pittsburgh because he can be counted on for long relief and a starter working deep into games was an issue a year ago. Some names to consider for the final spot are RHP Ty Taubenheim, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom, and LHP Corey Hamman. The relievers will included RH Romulo Sanchez, RH Jesse Chavez, RH Brian Slocum, RH Evan Meek (tired arm may be the only reason he is not with the Bucs), LH Dave Davidson, and RH Chris Bootcheck.
A lot will change over the next 7 days. The team is schedule to arrive in Indianapolis a week from Sunday. The countdown continues with the Major League opener next Sunday and the Indians opener the following Thursday. We’ll talk again soon.