CLEVELAND -- Bradley Zimmer was told he would not be on the Opening Day roster at the start of Spring Training, but the Indians' top prospect said he was going to fight for a job anyway. The young outfielder then turned in a torrid performance that made it fair to wonder if he was indeed ready for the big leagues.
Prior to Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Rays, Zimmer was promoted from Triple-A Columbus to help Cleveland's depleted outfield. The Tribe's No. 1 prospect -- and baseball's 19th-ranked farmhand on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list -- will assume the roster spot of outfielder Abraham Almonte, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right biceps. Zimmer hit ninth, got the nod in center and ended up 0-for-3 in his debut.
"I wanted to be here," Zimmer said. "It was more excitement [during the spring] knowing what I was able to do in my time there and show the staff and these guys that I'm playing with now, what I'm able to do and contribute to this team winning. Ultimately, that's why I'm here, to help these guys win."
Zimmer, who will wear No. 4 for the Indians, called his parents and brother, Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, after learning the news on Monday night. Zimmer's mom and dad immediately booked a flight from California in order to make it to Progressive Field for his MLB debut.
"That moment is hard to put into words," Zimmer said. "The feeling is something that I'll never forget. I'm still to this moment enjoying it. It's still sinking in."
The Indians also optioned utility man Yandy Diaz to Columbus and recalled right-hander Shawn Armstrong to give the Tribe's bullpen an extra arm. In order to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster for Zimmer, Minor League reliever Carlos Frias was designated for assignment.
The move to add Zimmer arrives in the wake of injuries in the outfield to Almonte, Brandon Guyer (placed on the 10-day DL with a left wrist sprain on Sunday) and Austin Jackson (on the 10-day DL with a hyperextended left big toe).
Zimmer was taken with the 21st overall pick in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, and he was in camp with the Indians this spring as a non-roster invitee. With the Major League outfield set, the 24-year-old was informed at the outset of the preseason that he was not competing for a job with the Indians. Then Zimmer hit .358 with nine extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and a 1.084 OPS in 23 Cactus League games.
"It was fun to get to know him a little bit, watch him play," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And he played great."
That strong showing continued into the regular season with Columbus. In 33 games, Zimmer has bounced between center field (24 starts) and right (eight starts) while posting a .294/.371/.532 slash line. In 144 plate appearances, the left-handed-hitting Zimmer has excelled against both lefties (.970 OPS) and righties (.880 OPS), notching five homers, 11 doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs, nine steals and 22 runs scored in the process.
While the Indians fought through a series of injury setbacks in the Majors, Zimmer continued to heat up offensively in the Minors. He turned in a 1.008 OPS in his past 20 games and hit .326 with a 1.000 OPS in 11 contests in May.
"When there is a need, you want the guy to be in a really good spot for a younger player," Francona said. "By all accounts, this is as good a place as he's been in. So with the timing fitting, we thought [promoting Zimmer] made sense."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.