Leo: Sizing Up the Sizemore Injury
Grady Sizemore suffered a back strain in Arizona a couple weeks ago while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. It is unlikely he’ll be ready for Opening Day on April 5th.
When the Indians sent Sizemore into free agency this offseason, some thought his days in the Tribe were over. Then Cleveland re-signed him at the discounted rate of $5 million (his option was for $9 million), giving the club a chance to possibly save a little cash (there are $4 million in performance incentives bonuses) and Sizemore a chance to re-prove himself for a larger deal in 2013. Now, the three-time All Star finds himself back in the training room instead of the outfield.
With Sizemore on the shelf, the Indians are looking at several options. Michael Brantley could move from left to center for the time being. Brantley, a center fielder in the minors, wowed Clippers fans while patrolling that spot at Huntington Park. That would leave Shelley Duncan to get more time in left and possibly Ezequiel Carrera to provide back-up for both.
This could also open the door for Aaron Cunningham to make the team. He would likely be an alternative at the corner spots, but has played a little in center also. Cleveland acquired Cunningham in December for reliever Cory Burns.
How does this affect the Clippers?
The Sizemore injury probably doesn’t change the outfield landscape too much for Mike Sarbaugh. It was likely the Indians were already going to carry five outfielders and with plenty of depth, there will be several capable bodies to contribute in Triple-A.
Trevor Crowe is not on the 40-man roster, but could get more attention in camp now. He spent all of last season on the disabled list after undergoing right shoulder surgery. He could be the Clippers starter in center.
Thomas Neal and Chad Huffman are both still likely to start with Columbus. Both will be entering their sophomore seasons in the organization. Neal, a member of the 40-man, was acquired July 30th for Orlando Cabrera. Huffman, not on the 40-man, was claimed off waivers from the Yankees at the end of the 2010 season.
Russ Canzler will be front and center in the Clippers lineup if he doesn’t make the major league club. He was acquired from Tampa this winter. The reining International League MVP played mostly the corner infield spots in April and May, but almost exclusively in the outfield during the second half of the season.
The “wild card” options include Felix Pie, Fred Lewis, and Ryan Spilborghs, all of which inked free agent minor league deals and will be vying for a spot in Cleveland. It’s too early to say whether they will land in Columbus. Pie is the least likely because of a clause that allows him to opt out of his contract if he’s not on the Indians Opening Day roster. Fred Lewis has the same opt-out option if he’s not in Cleveland by June 1st. Spilborghs will reportedly make $1 million if he’s on Cleveland’s roster and could be an insurance policy for more injuries down the road.
The Clippers may see the return of Tim Fedroff and Nick Weglarz to Huntington Park. Fedroff played 62 Triple-A games in left or center last season and hit in one of the top two spots in the order. Weglarz damaged a ligament in his right thumb diving for a ball during the Clippers 2010 championship run, it required surgery. He missed the first two months last season after a bout with back spasms. He spent the entire season in Double-A. Weglarz is still considered a prospect, but 2012 is a crucial year and he’ll need to reach Columbus and be productive.
To quote former Clippers manager Torey Lovullo after his 2009 team came close to setting a single-game franchise stolen bases record, “I wouldn’t call it a free-for-all.”
Maybe, but I’d say it’s close.
Have a great week!