Francona opts for extra arms on Wild Card roster
Indians carry 11 pitchers, including Kluber and Kazmir for bullpen depth
CLEVELAND -- Manager Terry Francona likes to have as much depth as possible when it comes to pitching, and he made that clear once again with the structure of his roster for the American League Wild Card Game.
For Wednesday's clash with the Rays at Progressive Field, he took 11 pitchers, including two extra starters -- Corey Kluber and Scott Kazmir -- to use out of the bullpen. The list of position players included the usual suspects, with the exception of two role players, infielder Jose Ramirez and outfielder Matt Carson, off the bench.
"You try to have a loyalty to everybody," Francona said. "At the same time, you make decisions that are best for the team. While you're doing that, you try to make sure players understand that you care about them, but you make decisions to win."
General manager Chris Antonetti quipped on Tuesday that he had to talk Francona down from a 24-man pitching staff. Francona narrowed the list to Wednesday starter Danny Salazar, plus right-handers Justin Masterson, Cody Allen, Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, Chris Perez and Kluber, and lefties Marc Rzepczynski, Rich Hill and Kazmir.
"Some of it is protection early, and some is protection late," Francona said of the wealth of arms.
Cleveland chose to keep Perez on the roster even though he was recently stripped of his role as closer. Francona has been going with a closer-by-committee setup that could potentially include Masterson -- who was the Opening Day starter -- serving as a multi-inning option late in the game. Smith and Allen, the team's main setup men, are also options for the ninth.
"He's done everything with the right attitude," Francona said of Perez, who would likely pitch in extra innings if used. "So I think we wanted to put him on [the roster]."
Masterson is in a relief role at the moment after being sidelined for most of September with an injured left oblique, sustained in an outing against the Orioles on Sept. 2. The big sinkerballer is cleared to throw up to 65 pitches, making him a possibility for three or four innings out of the bullpen.
Kluber and Kazmir last started on Friday and Saturday, respectively, putting them in the mix for availability on Wednesday.
There were no surprises on the roster in terms of the main position players.
The infield consists of first baseman Nick Swisher, All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and utility man Mike Aviles. The outfield includes left fielder Michael Brantley, center fielder Michael Bourn, right fielder Drew Stubbs and utility man Ryan Raburn. Cleveland will carry two catchers: Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana.
The Indians added a trio of role players in veteran Jason Giambi, Ramirez and Carson. Giambi has served as a pinch-hitter and part-time designated hitter all season; the 21-year-old Ramirez gives Cleveland a fleet-footed pinch-running option. Carson (7-for-11 at the plate in 20 games) offers strong late-inning defense.
"Matt, since he's come up, has been a big part of what we're doing," Francona said, "whether it's going in for defense, pinch-running. He can play all three outfield positions, so it gives us some flexibility. And Ramirez, kind of the same thing. Since the day he got here, he looks like he belongs. He can change the game with his speed, and we can move him around the infield in case something happens."
There had been questions about whether Bourn -- sidelined with an injured left leg late in Sunday's game in Minnesota -- would be available, but he ran through a full workout on Tuesday with no issues.
"If he can pass [Tuesday's workout], he can do anything," Francona said. "We ran him through everything -- full speed turns, bases, outfield. He's good to go."