Carrera making run at already speedy roster

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians know they will have plenty of speed in their starting lineup this season. One question the team needs to answer this spring is whether it wants to carry another impact baserunner as part of its bench.

Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who is out of Minor League options and competing for a job as Cleveland's fourth outfielder, entered Wednesday with a team-leading five stolen bases this spring. Carrera also has the ability to play all three outfield positions.

"His speed impacts the game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's got the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark occasionally. He can be an interesting part of the bench, when he can change a game with his speed. He's a good little player."

The 25-year-old Carrera has hit just .111 (2-for-18) with one home run through nine Cactus League games this spring, but his speed and defense are what make him an attractive bench option. In 48 games with Cleveland last year, Carrera hit .272 with two homers, six doubles, three triples, eight stolen bases, 11 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

At Triple-A Columbus last year, he hit .294 with 31 extra-base hits, 26 stolen bases, 42 RBIs and 65 runs in 97 games.

Utility man Mike Aviles, who has a 74-percent stolen-base success rate over his career, is already a lock to be on the team's bench. Beyond backup catcher Lou Marson, leading candidates for the other two bench vacancies include Jason Giambi, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Carrera.

Among the lineup regulars, Cleveland boasts stolen-base threats in Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis and Drew Stubbs. Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera are also capable of swiping 10-plus bases in a season. Given that collection of solid baserunners, the Indians could potentially get away without having another fleet-footed runner on its bench.

"It's not necessary, but it's nice," Francona said. "I think Aviles, although not a burner, he can steal a base. He's a good baserunner and he watches pitchers. He's very intelligent. So he can do that. But, Carrera has kind of the speed where he can outrun [throws] sometimes."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.