Key injuries will affect Opening Day roster decisions

Indians players like Martinez, Gonzalez may be given opportunity

Key injuries will affect Opening Day roster decisions

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Every player wants to make his team's Opening Day roster. Manager Terry Francona makes a point to remind them that the team that heads north after Spring Training often looks nothing like the group that finishes the season in the big leagues.

"There's a big focus on the Opening Day roster," general manager Mike Chernoff said. "But, that can change five days in or 10 days in. And, it does change -- always. Tito does a great job in the initial meeting with the players, talking about how many guys each year that are sitting in that clubhouse make an impact on the team at some point during the year."

Last year's Opening Day lineup for the Indians included Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Juan Uribe, none of whom ended the season with the team. Lefty Ryan Merritt, who was barely a blip on the spring radar one year ago, pitched the Indians into the World Series.

The Indians are monitoring the health of left fielder Michael Brantley (right biceps surgery in August), starter Carlos Carrasco (right elbow) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (right shoulder). Brantley and Kipnis may not be ready for Opening Day.

Here is a breakdown of how the Tribe's projected Opening Day roster looks today.

Catchers (2): Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez
Gomes and Perez will serve as Cleveland's catching tandem. Even with Perez's standout play in the playoffs last year, expect Gomes -- who's enjoying a strong spring -- to be the starting catcher. Francona said he will look for ways to use Perez more than a typical backup.

First base (2): Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana
Francona noted that Santana will likely garner the bulk of the playing time at first. Encarnacion will spend most of his time as the designated hitter. Francona said he will communicate with both throughout the season to find opportune times to flip-flop them.

Second base (1): Erik Gonzalez
With Kipnis possibly heading to the DL, Cleveland is weighing internal options for second. Gonzalez is on the 40-man roster and Francona has raved about him being a "Gold Glove-caliber" defender at multiple infield positions. 

Shortstop (1): Francisco Lindor
Lindor is playing with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He is one of baseball's emerging stars and is excelling on the world stage. When the energetic, 23-year-old returns to Arizona, he will do so as an anchor up the middle and in the heart of the lineup.

Lindor's over-the-shoulder grab

Third base (1): Jose Ramirez
The Indians could move Ramirez to second base, if Kipnis misses time, but the team's preference is to keep him at third. The switch-hitting Ramirez has enjoyed a strong camp and Francona said Ramirez has been displaying the kind of confidence he gained during last summer's breakout performance.

Outfield (3): Abraham Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin
Brantley is playing in Minor League games in his comeback from surgery. With no firm date for his Cactus League debut, and knowing that he will not be playing consecutive games right away, it is hard to project him as part of the Opening Day roster. Almonte looks like a possible interim solution for left. Naquin and Chisenhall project to garner the bulk of the at-bats in center and right field, respectively.

Almonte goes back-to-back

Bench (3): Brandon Guyer, Austin Jackson, Michael Martinez
If neither Kipnis nor Brantley will be on the Opening Day roster, that opens the door for Martinez and Jackson. Francona loves Martinez as a late-inning defensive specialist for multiple infield and outfield spots. It allows the manager to work through pinch-hit scenarios, knowing he can plug Martinez in defensively. Jackson could provide a right-handed complement to Naquin in center. Guyer is on the team as an option for all three outfield spots, but mainly the corners. Expect Guyer to be in the lineup against lefties.

Rotation (5): Trevor Bauer, Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin
The Indians slow-played Kluber's spring throwing program, but the ace still looks as if he will be the Opening Day starter. Bauer, Salazar and Tomlin have all gotten through spring thus far without incident. Carrasco has dealt with right elbow inflammation, leading Cleveland to skip him once in the rotation. There is no indication now that Carrasco's situation would lead to a DL stint. He could be slotted into the back of the rotation; the Indians do not technically need a fifth starter until April 15.

Bullpen (7): Cody Allen, Shawn Armstrong, Boone Logan, Zach McAllister, Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw
Assuming Francona goes with a seven-man bullpen, as he has hinted, this group could make up Cleveland's relief corps. There are six virutal locks, and a wide-open competition for the last spot. Armstrong has had a good spring and has nothing left to prove at Triple-A. Francona has reiterated that Allen will be his closer, with Miller serving as a high-leverage weapon again.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.