Notes: Graves, Shoppach make roster

Notes: Graves, Shoppach make Tribe roster

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Danny Graves came into Indians camp hoping to prove his big-league career isn't over. Kelly Shoppach came in hoping to prove his is ready to begin.

Both have made the Indians' Opening Day roster.

Though the paper moves won't be made until after Saturday's final exhibition game against the Reds, the Indians have made the decisions that will cement their 25-man squad.

Graves beat out prospect Jason Davis, who will be optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, and fellow veteran Steve Karsay, who will be reassigned to Minor League camp, for the last remaining bullpen spot.

Shoppach beat out veteran Einar Diaz for the job backing up catcher Victor Martinez.

The utility infielder spot has also been decided, as Ramon Vazquez will stay with the club and Brandon Phillips will likely be traded. Phillips was cleaning out his locker Wednesday, though he said he wasn't informed exactly where he's headed.

The slew of decisions obviously came to the delight of the three winners and none of the three seemed happier than Graves. After a dismal 2005 season in which he was dismissed as the Reds closer, he found vindication at the Chain of Lakes complex.

"This is a fresh start for me," Graves said. "You know me and how much I like to talk. But when they told me [the news], I was speechless. I wanted to hug all three guys in that room. I felt like I was 22 again."

In many ways, Graves threw like he was 22 again this spring. Thanks to a mechanical adjustment that has him using his legs more, he regained command of his sinker, saw the velocity of his fastball creep back up around 87-89 mph and posted a 3.95 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.

"His sinker was there throughout," manager Eric Wedge said. "What he ended up doing was doing a better job of using the sinker off the plate. With the exception of one outing [Sunday], we felt he was pretty consistent."

Graves will be used initially in middle relief, though his experience in the late innings could prove to be an asset as the season progresses, Wedge said.

Catching on: Shoppach braced himself when he was called into Wedge's office Wednesday morning.

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Accustomed to being sent down this time of year, Shoppach was expecting the worst. Instead, he came out with his first full-time, big-league job.

"It's definitely special to me," he said. "I'm very excited."

When Shoppach showed up for Indians camp after being acquired in January's Coco Crisp trade, he was told to concentrate on his defensive game and getting adjusted to the pitchers he'll be working with.

Offensively, his numbers (.156 average in 32 at-bats) have paled to those of Diaz (.367 in 30 at-bats). But defensively, Shoppach, who has spent the past two seasons at the Triple-A level, has been superior.

"The things I can do well," Shoppach said, "I did well."

Wedge said it took some time to settle the winner of the backup job.

"It was a very tough decision and a very close call," he said. "But we felt from a total package standpoint that the ability of Kelly to impact the team and the way he threw the ball this spring, he was the guy for us to go with coming out of camp."

Decision time: Karsay and Diaz both have outs in their Minor League contracts that allow them to pursue a big-league opportunity with another club.

Diaz could not be reached for comment Wednesday, so his status is uncertain.

Karsay, who compiled a 5.14 ERA in 14 spring innings, said he'll weigh his options in the coming days. Several teams, he said, have expressed interest, but he's not sure how firm the interest is.

"If none of the other things pan out or come around with the other teams," Karsay said, "I'll stay down here and throw bullpens in between extended innings [in extended Spring Training]."

By avoiding reporting to the Triple-A Buffalo club, Karsay leaves open the possibility that he could bolt for another big-league club.

The right-hander's mechanics were a steady work in progress all spring, but he said he finally felt comfortable throwing his split-finger fastball in recent outings.

"The last 10 days, things started coming around for me," Karsay said.

If he stays in extended camp, Karsay will work his pitch count up so he can pitch multiple innings.

"We feel like he still has a ways to go," Wedge said. "He's not too far away, though. He continued to get better as camp wore on."

Sigh of relief: Vazquez can finally start packing his bags with the knowledge that he's heading to Chicago for the season opener.

"Now I have an idea where I'm going," he said.

Vazquez, acquired from the Red Sox for Alex Cora last season, has an option year remaining, so the Indians could have sent him and his $700,000 contract to Buffalo. But he showed his versatility in the field and his ability to play third base, shortstop and second base effectively.

It didn't hurt that he's left-handed and the starters at those positions are all right-handed. And it definitely didn't hurt that Vazquez is used to the utility role.

"It's one of the tough jobs in the game," Wedge said. "Ramon's done it before. He's a good complement to the other guys in the infield."

Tribe tidbits: The Indians are expected to send outfielder Jason Dubois, who has had a tremendous spring at the plate, down to Buffalo sometime in the next couple of days. Todd Hollandsworth came into camp expected to get the fourth outfielder job and Wedge indicated that the situation hasn't changed. ... Right-hander Jason Johnson, who isn't slated to pitch for the Tribe until the April 9 game against the Twins, will pitch in an exhibition game for Class A Kinston against Buffalo next week as a final tuneup.

On deck: The Indians remain home for Thursday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Tigers at Chain of Lakes Park. Right-hander Jake Westbrook gets his last spring tuneup against right-hander Jeremy Bonderman.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.