GOODYEAR, AZ (92.3 The Fan) – 14 games. That’s the amount of time Manny Acta, the coaching staff, and the front office have till they leave Goodyear, Arizona and get ready for what they hope will be a successful 2012 campaign.
In those 14 games, Acta and the Indians have to come to some tough decisions, some of which are still very unclear as the team takes a step away with their only off day of the Spring.
First there’s a roster of players that have to be decided upon, but even more importantly, there’s a couple positions still up for grabs with two weeks and two days left till the opener vs Toronto on April 5th.
With a day off today, let’s examine those spots that remain up for grabs, and who currently has the lead or at least appears to in that department.
1. Left Field
As of today, the leader in the clubhouse has to be Shelley Duncan, a guy who last season hit seven homers in September, and appears have carried that over with four homers this spring. Duncan’s defense remains a concern, but he’s a wild card in that if he can get the chance to hit on a consistent basis, he could provide the Indians with some slugging power at the plate.
There’s plenty of other names in the mix – Ryan Spilborghs, Aaron Cunningham, Russ Canzler, and even Matt LaPorta. That’s a lot of names in the mix, but Acta will get it down to 2-3 within the next week. Duncan has done enough to earn the spot as of now, and while Spilborghs and Cunningham are better defensively, Duncan’s name should be the first to be called for the spot on opening day.
2. Third Base
It’s a battle between Lonnie Chisenhall and Jack Hannahan, and both players have been fine on defense, but neither have done much at the plate this spring. Chisenhall had a big hit in the 9th vs the Dodgers, which drove in two runs in the teams eventual 4-3 win. He’s hitting .231 this spring, with 0 homers and 3 RBI. He’s also struck out 10 times already.
Hannahan, who is the better defensive player, is hitting just .222, one homer and five RBI in just six games. Last spring Chisenhall hit .500, and still didn’t make the MLB roster, and that should be an indication that this is Hannahan’s job to lose.
Expect Hannahan, who was great in the field last season, to get the start at 3B, but Chisenhall will be in the mix, and will play plenty at 3B in 2012.
There’s two spots left in the pen, and a lot of names, some of which are proven vets, that are in the mix. Frank Herrmann has allowed five runs in 7 innings, but his pitching at the MLB level a season ago gives him the heads up for one of the last two spot.
If he makes the team, that leaves one spot open, and no less than five guys battling it out for one spot, and none of them have pitched lights out. The first guy on the list is Dan Wheeler, who if he doesn’t make the team gets a $100,000 buyout. He’s given up 9 runs in six innings this spring, but Acta says he feels he’s pitching better now than at the start of camp.
Also on the list – Chris Ray (11 runs in 7 innings), Jeremy Accardo (1 run, five innings), Robinson Tejeda (hurt most of camp), and Nick Hagadone (1 run in 7 innings).
You could sense the frustration recently with Acta on the subject of the pen, as he’s even talked about one of the guys who loses out on the fifth starter spot finding his way to the pen. He says that it’ll be the best two guys, and as of now, that’s Herrmann and Hagadone.
4. Fifth Spot in Rotation
With two weeks left, the runaway leader in this race is Jeanmar Gomez, who has yet to allow a run this spring. He’s allowed zero runs on four hits in 11 innings. Acta says that Gomez has thrown the best of any pitcher in camp, and unless he has three really bad outings, he should get the nod.
That means there’s three others trying to unseat Gomez – David Huff, Kevin Slowey, and Zach McAllister. It sounded like the club wanted Slowey to step up and win the job, but he’s been so-so at best, going 0-2, allowing five runs in 8 innings this spring.
Huff has allowed 7 runs in 11 innings, and McAllister has given up three runs in six innings. The total wild card in this is the future for Roberto Hernandez, aka Fausto Carmona. Some say he will be in Goodyear before camp ends, and if he shows up, he will be in the mix for a starting spot.