GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One way or another, Zach McAllister is expected to have a place within the Indians pitching staff on Opening Day. The only thing that needs to be sorted out this spring is precisely where the big right-hander will fit into the equation.
McAllister is among the candidates for the lone vacancy in Cleveland's rotation, but he also impressed the team last September during a stint in the bullpen. In terms of constructing the roster, McAllister is out of Minor League options, making it nearly a foregone conclusion that he will break camp with the big league team.
"I think he's really excited to know that he's going to be on the ballclub," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "From where I sit, as long as he throws the ball like he did in September, regardless of what his role is, he's going to help us win. That's what I really care about and I think down deep, he does, too."
Poor performance and a back injury led to a demotion to Triple-A Columbus and time on the disabled list during McAllister's turbulent 2014 campaign. The 27-year-old did finish strongly, however, posting a 2.84 ERA in September, when he also had a 2.77 ERA in seven relief outings. In his last five appearances (all in relief), McAllister saw a jump in velocity (96-97 mph) and spun 7 2/3 shutout innings.
McAllister enjoyed the late-season opportunity and the experience in the bullpen.
"It was always something I thought I could do, if I had to do it," said McAllister, who had a 5.23 ERA in 86 innings overall last season. "That was never a question. I feel like there's a good amount of starters that can go in the bullpen and be successful if they have to. To me, it was something where that was my role, so that's what I went out and I did."
McAllister also knows that, when healthy, he has shown he can be an effective starter for the Indians. He posted a 4.24 ERA in 22 starts for the Indians in 2012 and followed that with a 3.75 ERA in 24 starts for the club in '13. Asked if he preferred to stay in a starting role this season, McAllister said he is willing to accept any job the team has to offer.
"I'm here to compete," McAllister said. "Whether it's in the bullpen or as a starter, eventually it'll all play itself out. I'm not here to really worry about what's going to happen. I'm just here to take care of business and be ready for whatever my role is."