For a few hours, it was not clear whether Lewis was moving down the hall to the Minor League side of Cleveland's facility or packing his bags for a fresh start with a new team. As it turned out, Lewis cleared waivers and was forced to accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus.
Lewis, 26, was exposed to waivers for 48 hours, putting him up for grabs for other organizations. The Indians had to risk losing Lewis through the waiver process because he is out of Minor League options. He is guaranteed to earn $650,000 this season.
2010 Spring Training - null
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After other teams opted against claiming Lewis, the Tribe gained the ability to remove him from their 40-man roster without consequence. The subtraction trimmed Cleveland's roster to 39 players, vacating a spot for the Indians to add someone in camp on a Minor League deal.
As things currently stand, the Indians have a handful of non-roster players in the running for a spot with the Opening Day squad. Infielder Jack Hannahan has a leg up for the starting job at third base, Travis Buck is in the mix for a reserve outfielder role, and relievers Justin Germano and Doug Mathis are among the bullpen candidates.
Eliminating Lewis from the 40-man roster was one way to clear room for one of those players. Beyond Germano and Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Frank Herrmann and Jess Todd are all still in camp vying for relief roles.
Right-hander Joe Smith is also in the mix, but it appears highly unlikely that he will be ready in time for Opening Day. Smith has been fighting upper abdominal soreness for the past two weeks and seems destined to begin this season on the 15-day disabled list.
Lewis declined to comment to reporters on Tuesday, deferring to Acta or general manager Chris Antonetti, but he responded to news of his demotion on the social networking site Twitter.
Under his handle of @JLEWFifty, Lewis wrote: "Big thank you to everyone for their support thru this tough time. Gonna be ok and back in the show soon!"
Last season, Lewis went 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 37 games for the Indians, but he spent 24 games with Triple-A Columbus, too. This spring, Lewis posted a 14.29 ERA in six games, allowing 10 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits in just 5 2/3 innings. Acta said Lewis' poor performance played the biggest role in Cleveland's decision.
"It's about results," Acta said. "I don't think anybody here is blindsided about what decision is being made about any particular player.
"His velocity is a little bit down," Acta said. "But right now, at the Major League level, velocity is not everything. You need to command and locate your pitches in order to have success whether velocity is down or not."