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At least seven Indians headed to AFL

At least seven Indians headed to AFL

KANSAS CITY -- One way or another, recently signed No. 1 Draft pick Alex White will be pitching somewhere in Arizona this fall.

The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced Tuesday, and the Indians have seven players listed on the roster for the Peoria Saguaros, who will be managed by former Tribe player David Bell. They are: outfielder Nick Weglarz, right-handers Connor Graham, Josh Judy and Zach Putnam, first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride and infielders Carlos Rivero and Josh Rodriguez.

The 18th annual Arizona Fall League season begins on Oct. 13 and runs through Nov. 19, with the Rising Stars game on Nov. 7 and the championship game set for Nov. 21. Every game can be followed live on Gameday on MLB.com and MLBFallBall.com.

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White, obviously, is not on the list of participants, but the right-hander could be added later. If not, he's expected to see action in a junior AFL that is expected to launch this year. The new league will take the place of the Hawaiian Winter League, which no longer exists.

John Mirabelli, the Indians' assistant general manager in charge of scouting, said the Indians will see where White is at following his strength and conditioning program, which began at Double-A Akron last week. White will report to the instructional league in Goodyear, Ariz., in September and build up arm strength after a summer layoff. He'll then report to one of the two Arizona leagues in October or November.

"The parallel league will take place the same time as the Fall League and will have A-ball and some Double-A guys," Mirabelli said. "We might put [White] there. A lot depends on his throwing program between now and the instructional league and how far away he is."

As for the Tribe's representatives in the AFL that have been determined, the Indians are using the league, which aims to showcase some of the game's top prospects, for functional purposes, as detailed below:

Weglarz: The most highly touted prospect of this bunch, Weglarz has had a busy 18 months, in that he's represented Canada in the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as the World Baseball Classic. Under normal circumstances, the Indians would have given Weglarz, who had a .227 average and .808 OPS this year, the offseason off. But Weglarz landed on the Double-A Akron disabled list with shin splints this month, so he'll use the AFL to make up for lost time.

Graham: Acquired in the July trade that sent Rafael Betancourt to the Rockies, Graham is in the starting rotation at Akron, where he's gone 1-2 with a 4.07 ERA in five appearances. He could eventually transition to relief work. For now, the Indians want him in the AFL to improve the consistency of his fastball command, Mirabelli said.

Judy: In 31 appearances, including one start, for Akron, Judy is 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA and eight saves. He's walked 17 and struck out 56 in 44 1/3 innings. He'll use the AFL platform to get more innings and experience, as the Indians believe his power stuff might eventually translate in the Major League 'pen.

Putnam: When the Indians' bullpen was in disarray earlier this year, the team transitioned several prospects from starting to relief duties in the Minors, and Putnam, a fifth-round Draft pick in 2008, was in that mix. He is 3-2 with a 4.66 ERA in 28 appearances at Akron. The Indians are sending him to the AFL because, in Mirabelli's words, "he needs innings, plain and simple."

McBride: A shoulder injury forced the Indians to move McBride from catching duties to full-time work at first base and in the corner outfield this season. He made the jump from Class A Kinston to Akron, where he's batting .245 with 12 homers, 24 doubles and 56 RBIs in 85 games. Mirabelli said McBride could see some action behind the plate in the AFL if his shoulder recovers, but the fall experience will allow him more time to get acclimated to the other positions.

Rivero: Rivero, the regular at shortstop in Akron, has had a solid year defensively and is reportedly just starting to come into his own at the plate, where he's batting .234 with a .647 OPS. The Indians want him to keep playing and keep making strides, and the AFL allows him the chance to do so.

Rodriguez: He's another guy making up for lost time. Rodriguez missed more than 100 games this season because of a hamstring injury. "He played eight or nine games in April, got hurt and worked his way back, then tore [the hamstring] all the way off the bone right before he was supposed to come back," Mirabelli said.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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