GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians hoped that either Aaron Cunningham or Ryan Spilborghs would seize their opportunity this spring and claim an outfield job. Instead, both players struggled and Cleveland was left with a tough decision.
Under the circumstances, the Indians decided on Sunday that Cunningham would break camp with the club as their fourth outfielder off the bench. Cunningham can handle all three outfield spots and has had success with left-handed pitching, but his situation was aided by the fact that he is on the 40-man roster and out of Minor League options.
"Neither one of these guys separated themselves," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "A lot of it we had to rely on track record, and a lot of it was business decisions about guys already being on the 40-man roster."
Spilborghs, who was in camp with Cleveland as a non-roster invite, was reassigned to Minor League camp. That said, the outfielder has an out clause that he can exercise by Thursday. The Indians are hoping he chooses to remain in the organization, but the club also knows Spilborghs may want to pursue a job elsewhere.
"I want it to be the right opportunity for Ryan," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "I'd like to try to help him find the best opportunity at the Major League level. The reality is that he could be with us, because I think we have an appreciation for who he is and the things he's capable of doing."
Cunningham has hit .213 through 18 games this spring for the Indians, while Spilborghs left camp after putting up a .174 average in 21 contests.
Cunningham, 25, was acquired over the offseason in a trade with the Padres, who received Minor League reliever Cory Burns in the deal. Cunningham managed only a .178 average in 52 games with San Diego last year, but he posted a .329 mark with nine homers and 63 RBIs with Triple-A Tucson.
"Aaron probably, like Ryan, pressed a little bit this spring," Antonetti said. "So I'm not sure we got a chance to see what he's fully capable of, but were able to see some of the things our scouts saw. He's obviously a very athletic guy. He can play both corner spots in the outfield. He's certainly capable of standing in center as well.
"He's had a better approach against left-handed pitching. He may not have had the success in spring, but we think he's a guy that's capable of helping a team out in a variety of ways both defensively and offensively, and on the bases."