CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians are taking their entire September roster to Houston for the ALDS, but the 25 players who will actually face the Astros on Friday in the best-of-five series are all but set.
Manager Terry Francona said the lone decision that has yet to be made concerns the last spot on the bench – outfielder Rajai Davis or utility man Erik Gonzalez.
Francona says it’s a matter of playing it safe with Gonzalez or taking a gamble and going with Davis in the hope that he could come off the bench and help the Indians win a game with his speed.
“We’re debating the last spot,” said Francona before Wednesday’s workout at Progressive Field. “Gonzo gives you a little bit of a safety net if something happens to somebody. Raja gives you the ability to maybe influence the game with his legs as we’ve seen.
“We’re all just trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do. Is it play it safe, which might be the right thing to do. If Frankie (Lindor) goes down and wasn’t hurt enough to go on the disabled list, that would be an issue. But do we gamble a little bit and see if Raja can change a game with his legs? So that’s where we’re going back and forth.”
Gonzalez, just out of MLB concussion protocol, is hitting .265 (36-for-136) with one homer and 16 RBI. He’s stolen three bases.
Davis is hitting .224 (44-for-196) with one homer, six RBI and 21 steals in 28 attempts. He’s scored 33 runs compared to 17 by Gonzalez.
With the exception of Davis and Gonzalez, here’s what the unofficial roster looks like:
Starting pitchers (three): Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger.
Bullpen (eight): Trevor Bauer, Shane Bieber, Cody Allen, Dan Otero, Adam Cimber, Andrew Miller, Oliver Perez and Brad Hand.
Infield (six): Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, Josh Donaldson, Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnacion.
Outfield (five): Greg Allen, Brandon Guyer, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera.
Catchers (two): Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.
Francona said the choice of Cimber and Otero in the bullpen were based on Houston’s predominantly right-handed hitting lineup. Francona’s other right-handed choices were Josh Tomlin, Adam Plutko and Neil Ramirez.
On Tuesday, Francona said starters Bauer and Bieber would open in the bullpen. On Wednesday, he announced the rest of the bullpen.
“We’re trying to make our bullpen thicker or bigger early (in the series) and we may use Carlos Carrasco later in the series,” said Francona. “It depends on how much he pitches.”
Kluber will start Game 1 on Friday followed by Carrasco in Game 2 on Saturday. Clevinger will pitch Game 3 on Monday at Progressive Field.
The Indians acquired Cimber and Hand in July from San Diego. Hand has done a good job in the closer’s role, but Cimber, a submarining right-hander, has not pitched as well as he did with the Padres. Cimber went 0-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 28 games for the Tribe. He struck out seven and walked seven in 20 innings. In San Diego, he went 3-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 42 games. He struck out 51 and walked 10 in 48 1/3 innings.
“In San Diego he was pitching full innings,” said Francona. “When he came here, he didn’t finish innings because we had so many lefties. I think that hurt him at times.
“He’s always one pitch from a double play, especially against the right-handers. Hopefully, he can keep the ball in the infield against Houston’s tough right-handed hitters.”
Right-handers are hitting .239 (44-for-184) with three homers against Cimber. Lefties are hitting .329 (24-for-73) with two homers.
Otero (2-1, 5.22, one save), like Cimber, has had an inconsistent season. He did post a 2.89 ERA in September. Right-handers are hitting .259 (38-for-147) and lefties .337 (31-for-92) against him. Last year Otero had a better season but didn’t make the ALDS roster.
Five Indians will be making their first postseason appearance – Hand, Cimber, Bieber, Alonso and Diaz. Last year the Indians considered adding Diaz to the ALDS roster but didn’t do it. The decision backfired when Edwin Encarnacion twisted his right ankle in Game 2 and didn’t play again until Game 5.
Diaz hit .312 (34-for-109) with five doubles, two triples, one homer and 15 RBI in 39 games. He posted a .797 OPS after spending most of the season at Class AAA Columbus.