GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The number of players in camp with the Indians has been whittled down to where only one issue remains unsettled to firm up the Opening Day roster. Cleveland needs to determine how right-handers Cody Anderson, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin all fit within the pitching puzzle.
Indians manager Terry Francona has maintained that there is not a "pitch-off" for rotation jobs, but Bauer and Tomlin each took the mound Tuesday at a critical juncture and turned in strong performances. Now, Cleveland might be ready to reveal its last roster decisions on Wednesday morning after meeting with each pitcher involved in the situation.
"We're going to talk to everybody tomorrow," Francona said after Tuesday night's 4-1 win over the Mariners. "With guys pitching today, we just thought that we'll get up in the morning and we'll talk to everybody, and then we'll sort it out and we'll explain everything and move on."
There could be an unexpected twist, too.
Throughout this spring, the assumption has been that Bauer would be the No. 4 starter, slotting in behind Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. If Anderson and Tomlin both made the team, the other assumption was that Tomlin would be the one sent to the bullpen as a long man. There could, however, be another scenario in play.
When it was announced Monday that outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (left wrist) was expected to open the season on the 15-day disabled list, that created room for Cleveland to carry an eighth reliever. If Anderson and Tomlin are viewed as the best options for the starting rotation, Bauer might find himself in the bullpen to start the regular season.
Francona was not ready to delve into that possibility just yet.
"Can we wait until tomorrow?" Francona said Tuesday night.
In a 1-1 tie with the Angels on Tuesday afternoon in Tempe, Bauer did his best to shore up a spot in the rotation, spinning six shutout innings against a lineup without Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. Even so, Bauer -- the American League leader in walks last season -- issued no walks, scattered seven hits and struck out seven in an impressive Cactus League finale.
"I don't think coming out of the chute he had his real good life [on his fastball]," Francona said. "But, it was nice to see that, even without maybe his best fastball, that he still was able to get them out. And I know that wasn't their lineup, but he kept them off the scoreboard, which is good."
On the spring, Bauer turned in a 2.25 ERA with 19 strikeouts against four walks in 20 innings.
In the nightcap against Seattle on Tuesday, Tomlin took the hill at Goodyear Ballpark and struck out 10, walked none and allowed just three hits in six brilliant frames. The righty had endured a rocky spring -- before finding his changeup and curveball in the outing against Seattle -- but the veteran is viewed as a more predictable option in Cleveland's eyes.
In 10 starts down the stretch last season, which was Tomlin's sixth year in the big leagues with Cleveland, the starter went 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA, .195 opponents' average and 0.84 WHIP.
As far as the Indians are concerned, Tomlin's track record carries more weight than the ERA he has posted this spring. In January, Cleveland showed its faith in Tomlin by signing him to a two-year extension that includes a team option for 2018. That went a long way in securing his place on the pitching staff, whether that be as a starter or reliever.
"He can pitch," Francona said. "He never beats himself. He doesn't walk people. You can't run on him. And we've seen, when he's crisp like [he was against Seattle], he can be overpowering maybe in a different way, or dominate a game maybe differently than other guys."
The 25-year-old Anderson has 15 strikeouts and four walks in 18 Cactus League innings this spring, but has posted a 5.50 ERA along the way. His ERA aside, Anderson came into camp in improved physical shape, and has displayed increased velocity to go with an improved curveball. Anderson is scheduled to start Friday against the Rangers in an exhibition game in Texas.
Barring something unexpected -- a player returning from Minor League camp or Chisenhall not landing on the disabled list -- it looks like Anderson, Bauer and Tomlin will all be heading north with Cleveland for Opening Day. Of the three, Tomlin has the most experience in the bullpen.
How the Indians will make this work will be revealed soon enough.
"It's a tough decision, but it's a good decision," Tomlin said. "[I hope the Indians] take the best 25 guys who want to go win. That's putting personal preference aside and trying to go out there and doing whatever you can do to help the team win games, because our ultimate goal should be to try to win a World Series, not to [say], 'I'd rather start,' or, 'I'd rather be in the bullpen.'
"That should be neither here nor there. Get the ball whenever you get the ball, and go out there and try to compete and win."