Indians designate De La Cruz for assignment

Indians designate De La Cruz for assignment

Indians designate De La Cruz for assignment
CLEVELAND -- The clubhouse inside the Indians' complex in Arizona figures to be a crowded place in the early portion of Spring Training this year.

First baseman Casey Kotchman officially has his locker reserved.

On Tuesday, Cleveland designated Minor League left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz for assignment, vacating a spot on the team's 40-man roster for the recently-signed Kotchman. The roster stands at capacity and the Tribe has another 20 players in the fold as non-roster invitees.

If the Indians add free-agent pitcher Jon Garland on a Minor League contract as expected, Cleveland projects to have 61 players in camp this spring. That does not include starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona), who is on Major League Baseball's restricted list.

The return date for Hernandez is unknown, given his ongoing legal and visa issues in his native Dominican Republic.

Indians pitchers and catchers and scheduled to report on Monday, with physicals planned for the following day. The first official workout will be held on Feb. 22 -- the day before position players are required to report to Arizona. The Tribe's first full-squad workout is planned for Feb. 25.

By Opening Day, the Indians will have whittled the field down to 25 players for the active roster. This spring, the Tribe will have competitions for one rotation spot, possibly two bullpen jobs and three bench roles. Cleveland will also be evaluating who should be the starter at third base.

Right now, the top three candidates for the rotation vacancy include Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff. Garland -- if signed and healthy -- might also work his way into that mix. It is believed that Garland will undergo a physical within the next week at the team's site in Goodyear, Ariz.

The bullpen has virtual locks in closer Chris Perez, lefties Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez, along with right-handers Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. Frank Herrmann and Nick Hagadone are two bullpen candidates on the 40-man roster. Some non-roster options include Dan Wheeler, Jeremy Accardo, Robinson Tejeda and Chris Ray.

Backup catcher Lou Marson projects to be on Cleveland's bench, leaving three jobs up for grabs. Players in the mix include outfielders Shelley Duncan, Aaron Cunningham and Russ Canzler, along with infielders Jason Donald, Jose Lopez and Jack Hannahan, among a long list of others.

Hannahan will also be in the running for the everyday job at third base, though he will have competition in youngster Lonnie Chisenhall. If Chisenhall wins the job, Hannahan would likely slide into a bench role. Should Hannahan get the nod at third, Chisenhall could possibly begin the season in the Minor Leagues.

The Indians signed Kotchman to be their regular first baseman on Feb. 3, adding him on a one-year contract worth $3 million. His deal also includes up to $1.55 million in performances incentives. With Kotchman in the fold, it seems likely that first baseman Matt LaPorta would begin the season in Triple-A.

The Indians now have 10 days to either trade, release or reassign the 23-year-old De La Cruz to the Minor Leagues, if he clears waivers. The lefty spent all of last season with Double-A Akron, going 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 23 outings (16 starts). Over 86 innings, De La Cruz struck out 95 hitters and walked 57.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.