CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians optioned Nolan Jones, their top prospect, to Class AAA Columbus on Friday with five other players.
Manager Terry Francona, in his conversation with Jones, asked him if bouncing between third and the outfield was an issue.
“We know he’s been out in the outfield, he’s certainly played third base, and we asked him if that’s realistic or if we’re putting a burden on him,” said Francona. “He said, ‘No. I can do that.’ So he’ll play some outfield and some third.”
The Indians drafted Jones as a shortstop with their second pick in 2016 and moved him to third base. Last year they started using him in the outfield because of Jose Ramirez’s presence at third. This spring the Indians kept him at third so he would feel comfortable in camp.
Jones appeared in eight games and hit .375 (3-for-8) with four walks.
Right-handers Eli Morgan, Jean Carlos Mejia, Carlos Vargas and left-hander Scott Moss were optioned to Columbus as well. Right-hander Kyle Dowdy and outfielder Billy Hamilton were re-assigned to the depth camp. The Indians will release Hamilton on Saturday if they can’t trade him.
There’s just under three weeks of camp left and here’s the problem with the players who get optioned out of big-league camp. How do they stay sharp? The Class AA and Class A teams can’t report to Goodyear until the big league and Triple-A teams leave on March 30 because of MLB’s health and safety protocols due to the coronavirus.
“It’s a challenge,” said Francona. “I mean the depth camp is there and they will play sim games and things like that. But I mean that’s part of what we’ve been thinking about when we send guys over is their development. Nothing is perfect this spring.”
The Indians opened spring training with 18 players, all prospects, in their depth camp. They have been filling in for the regulars in the early part of the Cactus League schedule.
No. 1: What happened to Jordan Luplow?
The Indians played their 13th game Friday and there is still no sign of outfielder Jordan Luplow. He’s been shut down since injuring his left ankle early in camp during batting practice.
Luplow has since received an injection and is being treated for an impingement.
“He had a good day Thursday,” said Francona. “On Saturday he’s going to hit off the fastball machine in the cage. We’re hoping for maybe Tuesday or Wednesday to get him in a game. That’s probably fairly realistic as long as there’s no setbacks.”
No. 2: The utility of it all
The trade of Mike Freeman on Friday to the Reds takes one of the main competitors out of the race for the Indians’ utility infielder job.
The remaining competitors include Yu Chang, Ernie Clement, Gabriel Arias, Owen Miller, Tyler Freeman and, possibly, Amed Rosario. The Indians acquired shortstops Rosario and Andres Gimenez from the Mets in January for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. It appears Gimenez has won the shortstop’s job because the Indians have asked Rosario to play some center field Sunday in a B game against the Reds.
“Right now, Amed is a shortstop, but he’s going out to center field,” said Francona.” We haven’t asked him to move around anywhere else yet.”
Oscar Mercado and Bradley Zimmer are also competing for the center field job.
Regarding the utility situation, it should come down to Chang and Rosario. Clement, Arias, Miller and Freeman have shown well this spring, but will almost assuredly be sent to the minors.
No. 3: Finally
Here’s what Francona had to say about three pitchers who were optioned on Friday:
* Morgan: “He only had the one inning because he came in a little behind everyone else with (a sore) arm. But he had a heck of an inning. He’s got one of the best changeups you’ll ever see. I don’t care what level. It’s a really good changeup.
“You know, he’s an extremely hard worker, almost to a fault. And that’s hard to say. But we talked to him about that, and we told him that we’re excited to go watch him pitch in his season because that’ll define who he is.”
* Moss: “His neck tightened up on him Thursday against the Padres or he would have gone out for the second inning. So, he will get that taken care of first and then get back to pitching.”
* Vargas: “He’s really young. We told him, ‘Hey, enjoy being young and seeing how good you can get.’ His send down isn’t necessarily as hard as some of the others because he wasn’t here to make our ballclub He was here to learn, to let everybody get acclimated to him and him to us. But he’s got a big arm. Now we just got to see where it takes him.”
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