This is the most subjective top ten list ever for Burning River Baseball and it is certainly something that people are passionate about. The Indians have had quite a few memorable announcers including former player favorites (like Bob Feller  and Rocky Colavito ), professional speakers (Mel Allen ) and some guys that just grow on you (Matt Underwood ). None of those announcers are in the Indians top ten.
It's really impossible to say who the best are as it is up to personal opinion and most of the candidates retired long before the oldest available recordings. There are no statistics for announcers, but amount of time spent with the team and awards won will be largely considered in the rankings. There may be a slight emphasis on more modern announcers because of familiarity, but also remember that these men called many more games per season and were under much more scrutiny as their broadcasts reached many more people than ever before.
10. Nev Chandler: Radio 1980-1984
Chandler only called five seasons in the 80's for the Tribe, but won the award for Ohio Sportscaster of the Year in each of those seasons. Of course, he also had the advantage of being the Sports Director for WWWE. He was the radio partner of Herb Score during that time and was celebrated as a very enthusiastic, fan favorite announcer. He left the Indians in 1985 to become the full time Browns announcer, a job he is more remembered for.
9. Ken Coleman: TV 1954-1963
Coleman is most famous as a Red Sox announcer, for which he has been inducted into their team Hall of Fame, but he got his start in Cleveland. Initially, he just called Browns games, but he quickly caught on with the Tribe and called the final Indians World Series appearance from 1954 to 1995 on television. After ten years with the team, Coleman went on to become a beloved announcer for both the Red Sox and Reds.
8. Jack Corrigan: TV 1983,1985-2001
During the 1980's Corrigan was the voice of Cleveland sports on television. In addition to calling Indians games on WUAB, he called a majority of Cavaliers games as well. Like many on the list, Corrigan is from North East Ohio and is a professional broadcaster, getting a degree from Kent State. His 18 years on TV for the Tribe is second most to just Rick Manning. Unlike most of the recent announcers on the list, Corrigan continued calling games after he left Cleveland and is now a radio announcer for the Rockies.
7. Bob Neal: TV 1949,1952-53,1961-63, Radio 1932-44,1947-53
Neal was another multi-sport announcer, as he called Browns games in the 1940's and 1950's while also calling games for the Indians. Neal was another professional, using a very affected voice, which can be heard here. Neal called twenty seasons on and off between TV and radio more combined years than all but four other Indians announcers.
6. Mike Hegan: Radio 1998-2011, TV 1989-2006
Mike Hegan was the son of Indians legend Jim Hegan and the fourth longest tenured announcer in Indians history, calling 23 seasons between the TV and radio. He is most remembered as the broadcast partner of Tom Hamilton, as the two worked together from 1998 through 2011. There he was a great complement to Hamilton, who did the play-by-play.
5. Rick Manning: TV 1990-Active
Telling players where to put their sunglasses for the last 24 years (on their face, not on their hats), Manning has called more seasons as a TV analyst than any other announcer in Indians history by more than six years. Likely the greatest player on this list, Manning is also a stellar color man on the broadcast. Unlike many "professional" announcers, Manning brings his calls to the people, using his natural voice and keeping a very down to Earth style. A talented man all around, Manning was not only a player and announcer, but has also been used as a base running coach by the Indians.
4. Herb Score: Radio 1964-67, TV 1968-97
Score was the Indians longest tenured announcer and even though he went a little wacky at the end, he should be remembered for his great years like this call in 1981:
Score quickly made the transition from superstar pitcher to announcer, then quickly progressed from TV to radio, where being a great announcer is so much more important (each of the top four announcers were radio broadcasters). Score called games along the greats, like Neal, Chandler and Tait and stuck around longer than all of them. While he never got to the World Series as a player, he did get to call two for the Indians, in 1995 and before retiring in 1997.
3. Jack Graney: Radio 1932-44, 1947-53
Graney was the Indians first official radio announcer in 1932 and was the longest tenured (at 20 years) until Score surpassed him in the 1990's. In addition, Graney was the first player that became a broadcaster after a successful career with the Indians as outfielder and lead-off hitter. He was beloved by those who listened to games in the forties and considered one of the greatest radio announcers of all time. He was the first announcer elected to the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Cleveland Press Hall of Fame in 2010.
2. Jimmy Dudley: Radio 1948-1967
In an age when former players were taking over the airwaves, Dudley was a professionally trained radio man and a great one. Dudley had the advantage of calling games for the Tribe during the most exciting time in Indians history, from 1948 through 1955. His 19 seasons as the Indians primary radio announcer are the seventh most in franchise history and he had more than a long tenure. In 1997, Dudley was given the Ford C. Frick award, inducting him into the broadcasting wing of the baseball Hall of Fame. He is the only full time Indians announcer to receive this honor. He is also one of just two announcers in the Indians Hall of Fame and the only one that was never a player. He won the Ohio Sportscaster of the Year award in both 1959 (it's inaugural season) and 1967.
1. Tom Hamilton: Radio 1990-Active
There is little question of who is the current greatest Indians broadcaster and most likely the greatest in Indians history. Unlike many of the announcers on this list, Hamilton was never a player and is a very professional broadcaster. Bringing something extra because he is on radio, Hamilton can make any play exciting, no matter what team it benefits. He is universally recognized as a fantastic radio personality and has won more Ohio Sportscaster of the Year Awards (6, including the one for 2013) than any other Indians announcer, impressive as his career has run alongside Marty Brennaman of Cincinnati who has won 15 over his career. If ever there was a reason to mute the TV and put on the radio, it was Tom Hamilton.
Borderline: John Sanders (1990-2006), Harry Jones (1961-1977), Joe Tait (1973-1987), Matt Underwood (2000-present), Tom Manning (1929-31, 1956)
Throughout Major League Baseball, Nick Swisher has been underrated for much of his career. With the exception of when he played in the large media market of New York, not many national writers have given Swisher the recognition he has deserved.
Quietly, he has been reliably good for a very long time. Since 2006, he’s played 145 or more games per season, hit over 20 home runs, and walked enough to make the Kevin Youkilis, the "Greek god of walks", look like only a demi-god. Although he only earned a .246 AVG in 2013, he can still be counted on to provide consistency to the lineup in 2014.
Nick Swisher: Mr. Consistency
Last season, Swisher dealt with a shoulder injury that he suffered early in the season and re-aggravated in June. That, combined with age, probably explains his career low .177 isolated power. There is a lot of varying information on the internet about the shoulder injury, so it’s unclear if it’s fully healed or something that could continue to dog him in future seasons. Swisher recently turned 33-years-old, so he is entering the portion of his career where his durability might become an issue.
Aside from the shoulder issue, Swisher makes a very boring study. The available data fail to suggest any noteworthy changes in his profile. His fly ball distance remained a robust 295 feet in 2013 (294 in 2012), which ranked him between Evan Longoria and Anthony Rizzo for the 40th best distance. His fly ball, ground ball, and line drive rates have been practically unchanged for the past three seasons. He is whiffing slightly more frequently these last two seasons, but his strikeout rate was only slightly higher than his career averages. Other avenues of analysis like PITCHf/x failed to reveal any new information.
ZIPS, a projection system used by Fangraphs, projects a useful .247/.342/.410 line with 18 home runs, 66 runs, and 66 RBI. The runs scored and RBI totals depend on how the Indians use Swisher. With his healthy on base and slugging percentages, he could score more frequently at the top of the lineup or drive in more runs if batting in the middle of the order. He was frequently used as the second hitter in 2013, so expect him to score more runs this season.
There were many who questioned how much money the Indians gave Swisher last season. However, could they have uncovered a market inefficiency: the consistent veteran?
Burning River Radio is back to clean out your earballs with more tales from Indians Spring Training. In addition to the multitude of early Spring discussions, the guys also break down the new rules affecting plays at the plate and whether or not bunting is passé. In the end, we do the predictable break down of Major League that is the necessity of every Cleveland radio show or podcast. To hear all the greatness, one needs just click the giant letters below.
Stan Williams was already a seven year veteran when he came to Cleveland in 1965 after being purchased from the Yankees. To that point he had been an above average starter with the Yankees and Dodgers, but those days were over when he joined the Tribe. After just 4.1 innings and a 6.23 ERA in 1965, Williams spent all of 1966 in AAA in the Pacific Coast League with the Dodgers affiliate the Spokane Indians. He stayed in the minors in 1967 until July, when he finally rejoined the big league squad.
Despite only playing half a season, he still racked up 79 innings between starting and relieving while holding a 2.69 ERA. It was his largest percentage of playing time as a reliever since 1958 with the Dodgers. In 1968, Williams had a resurgence posting a 2.50 ERA in 194.1 innings. That season, he was mostly a starter, but also relieved in 20 games including a career high nine saves. Despite his greatness as a starter, his future was switching from the beginning to the end.
In 1969, Williams took over as closer for Vincente Romo and finished out 23 games. In addition to his 12 saves, he started 15 games, pitching 178.1 innings in total. His ERA jumped some to 3.94, but was about to see another improvement as over the rest of his career he would only start two more games after starting 206 over his first 11 years. He would not make those relief appearances for the Indians however, as he was traded during that off-season to the Minnesota Twins along with Luis Tiant in exchange for Graig Nettles, Dean Chance, Bob Miller and Ted Uhlaender.
Williams and Tiant had both been with the Indians for awhile and been successful, but that was nothing compared to what Tiant had in store for the future. The names coming to the Indians were huge as well, but didn't help the Indians as much as it would seem. Dean Chance was a Cy Young winner earlier in his career, but was pretty much used up by the time he came to Cleveland. Miller also played just a single year of his 17 year career with the Tribe. Future All-Star and Gold Glover Nettles was the steal of the trade, but only played three years with the Indians before being sent to super-stardom in New York in exchange for a bunch of nothing. Finally, Uhlaender was the worst player of the group and ended up playing just two years with Cleveland of little success before retiring with the Reds after 1972. In the end, this trade was bad at the start and even worse in the end as the Indians wasted the one great player they received.
Williams didn't stick with the Twins very long, but he did cement his legacy as a top reliever with 15 saves and 10 wins alongside a 1.99 ERA in 1970. He quickly flamed out after that and finished his career just two years later with Boston. In 1974, he attempted a comeback, but never made it past AA Bristol. He wasn't done with the Red Sox however, as just a year later he was named their pitching coach. On and off, he was the pitching coach for different teams all the way through 1999 with the Mariners. After this, he became a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays until 2006, then later became a scout for the Washington Nationals, where he remains to this day.
It's finally time. The first day of fake games before the real games is here. After two weeks of PFP, batting and fielding practice, it is time to put everything together and see how it fits on a baseball field against another team. This is a great time as there is no focus on winning, instead working on team-work (getting that Cabrera to Kipnis double play in order) and fundamentals. Stats will be essentially thrown out from this first week of games while coaches and management look at how players play, not necessarily what the results are.
For this first game (and the second and third) the Tribe will take on the Cincinnati Reds, their Goodyear and Ohio rivals with Cleveland playing the home team on the first and third games with the Reds being home on Thursday. Last season, both teams came in second in their division and went on to lose their Wild Card game, but with internal improvements for all around, either teams could easily take over the division lead.
For Tribe fans, this game will hold a little extra excitement as it will be the debut of Trevor Bauer's new and more consistent delivery. He is currently on the outside of the competition for the fifth starter spot, but he still has a chance to blow everyone away this Spring and it starts today. Again, while the stats don't particularly matter, Terry Francona and Mickey Calloway will be taking careful note of Bauer's consistency and command of the strike zone. Velocity is unimportant at this point, as is endurance since he is only scheduled for a single inning.
In addition to Bauer, the Indians will be starting the other competitions early as well, with many borderline players taking a starting role in Opening Day. The tentative lineup includes Nyjer Morgan, David Cooper, David Adams and Jeff Francoeur, all players who will be working hard for any kind of role on the 2014 roster. Also looking to make their Indians debuts will be Aaron Harang (scheduled to pitch after Bauer) and J.C. Ramirez. This will be the first chance to see these players in action with the Tribe.
For the Indians coaching staff and upper management, watching this game and the next two weeks will go a long way into making these decisions. They will need to concentrate on each individual player while the games are happening, making decisions that will affect the lives of multiple people. The fans, on the other hand, can just enjoy the game. Finally, the Indians are playing baseball again. For those who have made it to Goodyear, enjoy the beautiful weather and sit in the sun while watching live baseball for the first time since October. For those still stuck in Cleveland, watch on STO or listen to WTAM and you can picture what it would be like if the world wasn't covered in a blanket of snow.
No more PFP, no more pop up drills...It's time for exhibition games!
It was a win-win when the Indians avoided going through the arbitration process with Justin Masterson. Niether the organization nor the player were forced to get on a plane, fly across the country and tell each other why the other side is on the wrong side of proper analysis.
The mutual agreement on the one-year contract relieves short-term stress but increases a long-term question: If Masterson tests the free agent market after the season, would the Indians be able to pay him what the market will demand? Also, is the organization willing to make a starting pitcher the highest paid player in club history? These questions, and more, can be settled before opening day if both sides choose.
From Masterson's current perspective, the contract is signed and it's time to focus on the 2014 campaign. Based on his career numbers (4.03 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 14 WAR while tossing over 200 innings two of the last three seasons) coupled with a good 2014 season will make him a pitcher who is high in demand. Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection has him earning a 3.82 ERA and a 3 WAR this season; boding well for a potential huge payout. With the recent long-term deals given to several starting pitchers this offseason, Masterson knows that he will be financially set for life in whatever city he ends up.
If the Indians want to keep Masterson on the roster past this season, it is vitally important that they sign Masterson to a long-term extension before the season starts.
To explain why, let's begin with doing some analysis on the extension of one of Masterson's peers: Homer Bailey. Although he does not rank as one of Masterson's similar players, he is comparable in both the statistical and age category.
This offseason, we’ve seen a bunch of +3 WAR starters (like Masterson) hit the free agent market, and none of them got anywhere close to $105 million over six years as Bailey did. One could make the case that Bailey is more attractive than pitchers like Matt Garza (health concerns), Ubaldo Jimenez (lack of consistency), Ervin Santana (also lack of consistency), and Ricky Nolasco (ERA/FIP differentials), each of whom have signed — or in Santana’s case, are likely to sign — for roughly 4/$50M. The Reds essentially bought five of Bailey’s free agent years for an AAV of $19 million per season, while similar but not as attractive free agents were only able to command $12 or $13 million per year with one fewer guaranteed year. Even if you prefer Bailey to these free agents, I’m not sure how to justify the gap at $6-$7 million per season, plus an extra guaranteed year, especially considering Bailey wasn’t actually a free agent yet.
This contract basically says that Bailey is a full win per season better than these guys going forward, and that the extra leverage that the Reds had of forcing him to wait an additional year to hit the open market had little or no value. Even if you think Bailey’s a +3.5 WAR guy going forward, you have to be fairly down on all of the Garza/Santana/Nolasco/Jimenez group to make that case. Which isn’t completely out of the question, as they each have their own issues. Just as the Reds are betting on Bailey’s upside, the Orioles on bidding on Jimenez’s upside, and both have established similar top-end performances over the last few years. Maybe Bailey comes with less downside, but nobody can know for sure that it’s significantly less, and the Orioles bet is less than half of the guaranteed money that the Reds just gave Bailey.
From an organization's perspective, another long-term question must be asked: Is the Bailey extension an outlier or will it be the norm for next season's free agent class? One could argue that the reason why clubs were "stingy" doling out hefty salaries to free agent pitchers this winter is the anticipation of next winters deep starting pitcher class which include the likes of Jon Lester, Brett Anderson, Johnny Cueto, Josh Johnson, Max Scherzer and James Shields. It's a possibility that clubs were saving room in their respective budgets for this upcoming list.
With many quality free agents ready to test the open market after this season, it is certain that the price for Masterson will be lower than if he had hit the open market this winter. Higher supply means lower prices. This certainly bodes well for the Indians front office brass. Because of the Bailey extension, the cost of re-signing Masterson right now is high using Bailey as a comparison. The Indians might be best by letting the open market lower his price after the season.
Terry Francona (left) recently said that he hopes that Masterson will be in Cleveland as long as he is. (Photo courtesy of cleveland.com)
With 20 roster spots more or less known, the competition will be intense for the final five places on the Indians roster. Essentially these will include an infielder of some sort (either a third catcher or corner infielder is most likely), the Indians fifth starter and two relievers with one more spot available. Today we will get into this final roster spot, which could literally be taken by any player in camp.
To shrink the prospects some, based on the Indians 2013 roster decisions, they are most likely to use the position for an eighth man out of the bullpen or pinch hitter. Almost all season last year, the Indians carried an extra pitcher (although some of that was due to Carlos Carrasco's suspensions), giving them an eight man bullpen or six man rotation, however you want to look at it. If the Indians choose this option, they could go many different ways. They could use it to keep an extra starter on the roster, specifically Carrasco, Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer, assuming Shaun Marcum is made the fifth starter. Doing this would keep the team ready in case of injury or early inning struggles by the current rotation. With two extremely young players (Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber) and and another often injured starter in Marcum slated to make up the rotation, this option doesn't look unreasonable.
The second type of player that could be used would be a regular reliever. The Indians will have 16 relievers in camp in addition to those expected to make the team (for now this assumes that C.C. Lee and Vinnie Pestano will fill the final two spots). The Tribe could use this extra spot to carry another match-up reliever and have Nick Hagadone, Mike Zagurski and Scott Barnes any one of whom would give the Indians three left handed relievers in their bullpen. As already mentioned in Spring Training Battles: Bottom of the Bullpen, the Central division is right handed heavy, so it would make sense to carry and extra righty instead. Assuming the Indians don't want to carry another rookie (in addition to Lee), the best right handed options are David Aardsma, Frank Herrmann, Blake Wood or JC Ramirez. While there are many other pitchers in camp, this race should already be able to be limited to essentially Hagadone, Zagurski, Aardsma and Herrmann.
If the Indians don't use this final spot for a pitcher, they could use it to make what could be a very inflexible offense much more versatile team. There are too many options to list here, but some of the best would be Jose Ramirez, Jeff Francoeur, David Adams, Bryan LaHair or Ryan Rohlinger. These players would bring varied qualities of speed, power and defensive prowess that would help the team in areas of great weakness (like third base and right field). Of those listed, Ramirez and Francoeur are the most exciting. Ramirez ended 2013 with the Indians and was playing on an almost daily basis after being brought up straight from AA. He brings blazing speed, a decent bat and average defense to the left side of the infield. With Francisco Lindor still in the minors to begin the season, Ramirez would be the Indians best reserve infield option if Mike Aviles were to become a starter.
Of course, all this discussion was likely pointless because it is describing what the Indians should do, not what they will do. Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti seem unmovable in their desire to cripple the roster by adding Jason Giambi. Every single player listed above will almost certainly hit better than Giambi in 2014 and all can actually be used in the field, which is not true about Giambi. For example, over the past two seasons Giambi has WAR of -0.8 while in 15 games last season, Ramirez earned a WAR of 0.1. Unlike Lindor, the clock has already started on Ramirez (he will likely be a free agent after the 2019 season), so there is no reason to keep him in the minors. More than enough has been said about the futility of Giambi on this website, so we won't go into it any more than to say that if he makes the team, he is not only hurting the team, but is stealing money from a young player that needs it far more than he does. Despite his cheating, injuries and general uselessness over the past decade, Giambi has already made $133.5M in his career. Meanwhile, a player who is competing for this spot with Giambi, Tomlin, was just in a fight with the Indians over $100,000.
While the 25th man is not the most important on the roster, what the Indians do with that spot will say if they feel it matters at all. With 23 Spring Training invitees in camp in addition to the 40 man roster, there will be many players who will be jobless once April roles around. This spot would be a great incentive for those players who are not already guaranteed a position to play hard during Spring, but only if they don't assign it to a player early on. If they don't, things will likely go back and forth a lot this Spring and we won't know who exactly will make the team until the end of March.
Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco could use this
roster spot as a back door onto the team.
Jimmy McAleer was an Ohio guy, all the way. He was born in Youngstown, died in Youngstown and played all but four games of his 1,021 games for Cleveland baseball teams including the first year of the Cleveland Spiders, the only year of the Cleveland Infants and the first year of the American League Cleveland Blues.
McAleer made his debut in 1889 with the Spiders at the age of 24 and was immediately an integral part of the Spiders lineup. The team had just moved into the National League and already had a pretty potent pitching staff and was beginning to assemble an offensive core to match it. After just one season with the Spiders, McAleer joined the short lived Infants of the Players League. In 1891, he came back to the Spiders, rejoining players like Ed McKean and George Davis who never left. The Spiders offense was far advanced from a few seasons earlier as the young players matured and McAleer himself had his best season to date. That year he became an elite base stealer, nabbing 51 bases.
The following season was something special for the Spiders. A young starter named Cy Young lead the way with one of the greatest seasons in Cleveland history while McKean and Hall of Famer Buck Ewing lead the offense. For his own effort, McAleer set career highs in RBI (70) and doubles (26) as the Spiders went to their first and only championship series. In the series they were swept 5-0-1 and McAleer went just 4 for 22.
The rest of his career with the Spiders, McAleer kept accumulating and ended up building up some pretty gaudy numbers. Only two players played more games in Cleveland (McKean and Patsy Tebeau) prior to 1901 and McAleer's numbers show that. He ranks second all time ins teals and in the top five in walks, hits and runs. Even his 11 home runs rank in the top ten as do his RBI, doubles and triples.
When the Robison brothers sold the greatest Spiders players to their other team, the St. Louis Perfectos in 1898, McAleer left baseball rather than be part of the travesty, but he came back in 1900 to play for the minor league Cleveland Lake Shores, the American League team that would eventually become the Indians. When the Blues made the jump to the big leagues in 1901, McAleer stayed on and became the team's first manager at the age of 36. He was called a player/manager, but his playing career had all but ended and he made his way into just three games that season.
In 1902 he left Cleveland for the first time, joining the St. Louis Browns as their manager. He spent the next eight seasons there, before ending his career with two seasons with the Washington Senators. While there have been many superior players in the history of Cleveland baseball, McAleer should be remembered by all Indians fans as not only one of the greatest Spiders hitters of all time, but as the first manager of the Indians franchise and the only player to have played for the Spiders, Lake Shores and Blues.
This time around, the guys talk about more Spring Training stuff, including, but not limited to; Justin Masterson's one year deal, Ubaldo Jimenez's four year deal and Max Scherzer's upcoming induction into the billionaire's club. Also covered is premature discussion on the final make-up of the 25 man roster with an emphasis on the last pitchers to make it in. Finally, a Spring Training primer is given to show Tribe fans where to park, how to get autographs and what time to show up to the games in Goodyear.
In 2011 the Indians had one of the top five bullpens in franchise history, a group that was largely intact through the 2013 season. As often happens with bullpens, however, they were inconsistent from year to year and, despite a strong 2012, things totally fell apart in 2013. The players that had been great the previous two seasons, mostly Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, dealt with injuries and struggled with effectiveness. The players who were great were mostly new pitchers like Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw.
The 2014 relief corps will be considerably different than even the 2013 squad. Perez and Joe Smith are gone after being together since 2010 and minor role players from 2013 Matt Albers and Rich Hill are also out. This has created some turmoil from within and there are multiple relief roles up for grabs this Spring. To start, there are a few known players to get through first. This will only consider the usual seven man bullpen that most teams use, with a separate post to discuss the 25th man, who could be a reliever. John Axford will close with Shaw and Allen as primary set-up men and Josh Outman and Marc Rzepczynski coming in from the left side. This leaves two (or three with an eight man bullpen) spots open for a number of relievers too large to mention.
While there are many players who could technically win the role, it can be boiled down to a few legitimate options. First, there are the returning relievers from 2013 including Pestano, Scott Barnes, C.C. Lee, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann and Preston Guilmet. After that come the starters, only one of whom can make the roster as the fifth starter. These include Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Shaun Marcum. Finally, there have been many minor league signings and Spring Training invites given to relievers, the most likely to make the team of which are Matt Capps, JC Ramirez, Mike Zagurski, Tyler Cloyd, David Aardsma and Scott Atchison. There are also minor league pitchers who will be in camp like Bryan Price, Trey Haley, T.J. House, Colt Hynes and Blake Wood, but with so much competition, these players will likely stay in AAA.
The competition for the first job should be the easier of the two to figure out. Assuming this will not be starter and will be a veteran, the top contender is Pestano. Other top contenders for this role include Hagadone, Herrmann, Zagurski and Aardsma. A curious note here is that two known members of the bullpen are already left handed and two top contenders, Zagurski and Hagadone also pitch from the left side. In addition, Barnes is also a lefty, giving the Indians far more left handers in camp than they will ever need. The Indians don't play in a particularly left handed heavy division with the best hitters on most other teams (Miguel Cabrera, Brian Dozier, Josh Willingham and Jose Abreu) generally being right handed.
It is hard to see Pestano not winning this spot as long as he is healthy and at least decent during Spring. He has the longest tenure with the Indians and has the greatest raw talent of all players listed above. As listed above, his primary competition should be from the other veterans, especially the most recent pick up, Aardsma, since it is hard to picture the Indians keeping three or more left handed relievers on the roster.
For the final spot, the Indians have almost as many options in strategy as they do in pitchers. If they fear the durability and consistency of the starting rotation on a regular basis, they could carry a veteran starter as a long man, like Tomlin. If they want to just have an extra starter, Bauer or Carrasco could also be an option, although they will likely not want Bauer to pitch irregularly. They could also use this as a way to bring up another young reliever in preparation for a bigger role in the future, including the Indians top relief prospect from last season, C.C. Lee, Preston Guilmet, Trey Haley or others. As mentioned before, they could use it to carry an extra left handed reliever or a veteran that signed a minor league deal.
This role is almost impossible to figure out at this point, so there is little reason to go much further into it. Almost certainly, multiple competitors for the job will get injured and some will play themselves out of the job. The youngest of the prospects will be left in AAA to extend their time with the team, with the exception of Lee, who spent some time in Cleveland last season. BurningRiverBaseball will continue to follow this race as it continues this Spring as players will be eliminated a long time before a winner is announced. This will likely be the wildest competition this Spring and could possibly go on until the end of March.
Vinnie Pestano is working hard to regain his top spot.