MESA, Ariz. — The Cleveland Indians are a relatively young team, but Cody Allen is the only rookie likely to start the season on the 25-man roster.
But even Allen has yet to be anointed officially as a member of the bullpen, though it would be beyond stunning if he were left off the club. Making his big league debut July 20 of last year, Allen, 24, compiled an 0-1 record and 3.72 ERA in 29 appearances, walking 15 and striking out 27.
If for any reason one of the Tribe’s back-end stalwarts — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano or Joe Smith — succumbs to an injury or a slump, Allen has the stuff and the makeup to step in, and never mind his inexperience.
Aside from Allen, there’s no telling which, if any rookies, will impact the Tribe’s season.
“You just don’t know,” manager Terry Francona said on Monday. “You don’t know when somebody will go down (to the minors) and take off or go down there and scuffle.”
However, the rookie that Francona thought of initially was 23-year-old Danny Salazar, who began 2012 at “high” Class A and ended up in Double-A. Salazar is in big-league camp, but nobody is pretending that he will make the big jump to the majors without a stop at Triple-A.
“The guy who comes to mind when I said that was Salazar,” Francona said. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he has great stuff and a presence. So it wouldn’t shock me if he were a guy who came up and helped us.”
In 2012, Salazar was 1-2 with a 2.68 ERA in 16 starts at Class-A Carolina before moving up to the Double-A Aeros, for which he was 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in six starts. He has pitched one scoreless inning in spring training.
“Some of the guys are really young,” said Francona, indicating that a number of the Indians’ best prospects are two or three years away from getting a chance to play in the big leagues.
As an example, Francona pointed to Francisco Lindor, considered by many to be the Tribe’s No. 1 prospect. Lindor was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Last year as an 18-year-old shortstop, he batted .257 with 24 doubles, six home runs, 42 RBI and 83 runs at “low” A Lake County.
He was among a small group of players brought over from the minor-league camp to play against the Chicago Cubs on Monday and had two singles and a walk in four at-bats.
“It was a treat to watch him,” Francona said. “He’s going to be a good player.”
Francona didn’t wait long to contact Lindor after he got the managerial job last fall.
“He’s one of the first guys I talked to (after being hired),” Francona said. “I called him; I’m not even sure why he was on our list. He’s a really nice kid, always smiling.”
In addition to observing how rookies perform in a major-league setting, Francona keeps tabs on how they internalize the experience after they return to minor-league camp.
“What I really watch for is how they act then they get back,” he said. “If a kid has a little attitude (and becomes overbearing to his teammates), we hear about it. We find a lot about people that way.”
One Tribe rookie who isn’t always acknowledged as a rookie is Trevor Bauer, who came to Cleveland during the winter in a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bauer might have the highest upside of any starter in camp and is expected by many fans to perform like a tested veteran.
“There is a very bright future for him,” Francona said. “He’s thoughtful and intelligent. He’s not the loudest kid in the group; he’s more quiet.”
On the other hand, Bauer has definite ideas of how he wants to pitch.
“When you tell him something, you have to have a reason, which you’re supposed to have anyway,” Francona said. “It was like managing Doug Glanville (for the Philadelphia Phillies). You would want to say, ‘I know you’re smarter than I am. You don’t have to apologize for it.’ “
The odds are that Bauer will not beat out more veteran pitchers, such as Carlos Carrasco and Scott Kazmir, who are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. Bauer turned 22 a month ago and probably would benefit from at least a little more time in Triple-A. But if there is an opening in the rotation during the season, there’s a good chance that he will fill it.
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