CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – If you have not figured out the Cleveland Indians’ playoff roster ahead of time, do not fret. You are not alone.
Objectively, issues of depth are not issues at all. In the case of roster assembly, the decisions are crucial, something Manager Terry Francona admitted Friday. The Tribe brain trust will still have to get together to assemble a team that puts them in the best position, but still have flexibility.
“Can we cover if something happens,” Francona said. “And you don’t want try to cover so much that you don’t have your best roster, but you also want to be, in case something does happen, you want to be able to not have it get in the way of you winning a series. So you try to balance all that.”
The outfield construction remains a point of debate with Austin Jackson and Jay Bruce the only mortal locks in the group, and Jason Kipnis probable to remain in center field.
Francona lumped Lonnie Chisenhall in with Michael Brantley and Brandon Guyer as medical question marks. The latter two will not play Friday, giving them two games to be ready for the postseason, as Brantley ran ‘aggressively’ pre-game. The outlook on Guyer remains long-term.
With a start and a pinch-hit appearance under his belt, Chisenhall remains the likely choice as a platoon option with Jackson. If he were not deemed healthy enough to go, it would be rookie Greg Allen over Abraham Almonte and Tyler Naquin, presumably.
What the two-time World Series winner did admit is that there will be some spots that will potentially be opponent-specific, though those decisions will only be on pitchers. Francona also said the rotation order will not change based on opponent.
Following the end of the regular season on Sunday, the team will split the difference between the finale and ALDS opener on Thursday with a simulated game on Tuesday. Carlos Carrasco and Ryan Merritt are set to pitch three innings apiece.
The Danny Salazar situation is still up in the air, as Francona seemed to imply a decision has not been made on whether or not he will come out of the bullpen. The decision on the righty’s role will affect whether or not he participates Tuesday as well.
“We’re trying to balance — because our sport is so much about rhythm and timing, we’ll set something up Tuesday,” Francona said, adding that ‘nobody likes sim games.’ “We can’t forget what he was able to do the other day. That was there. That was real. Do we keep lengthening him out? Do we maybe put him in the bullpen? Those are all things we’re talking about.”
Everything from Tuesday forward will be about keeping the rust off, a tactic that the team worked through over three series in 2016, and rest.
“We want them to take a deep breath, but we want them to get right back at it,” the skipper said. “The days off can help you as far as resting your body and things like that. But if you still have your timing hitting, it can be an advantage. You just don’t want to go — kind of like the All-Star break, where you just come back and you’re hoping that first day. We don’t want to do that.”