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The View From Pluto: The Big Holes in the Indians Opening Day Lineup

Indians stadium in Goodyear, Arizona
Indians stadium in Goodyear, Arizona during spring training.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the Indians lineup with just over a week until opening day.  WKSU commentator Terry Pluto has been scouting the team from Goodyear, Arizona this week and says there are big holes in the outfield.

Out with the old, in the with the new
The first observation Pluto makes is that there are not a whole lot of returning players this year. 

"I walked in the locker room, and all of the sudden, there's all these new guys and there's all these ... young guys," Pluto says. 

Pluto says that with the Indians being the fourth-oldest team in baseball last season, team president Chris Antonetti was worried about the team becoming older.

"He was very fearful of the team getting old at once ... Old and expensive," Pluto says. "What happens in baseball sometimes is you're overpaying older guys and in fact, you're paying them not for what they're going to do, but for what they did."

He says it's what led to the team letting go of free agents during the offseason, including Michael Brantley, who now plays for the Houson Astros and Edwin Encarnacion, who signed with the Seattle Mariners. 

Now, the team is full of newer players — Jake Bauers, three-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez and Leonys Martin, who isn't necessarily new. Martin played three games for the Indians last season before leaving to battle a life-threatening bacterial infection. Pluto says he's doing well and could actually be one of the ones taking an outfield spot.

A scattered outfield 
However, Pluto says there's a lot of players who can fare well in the outfield

"They're holding massive try outs. There isn't a single player in the outfield, that you'll go, 'That guy is going to be in that position for every single game.'"

Pluto says the team is trying to create opportunities for younger players. As of right now, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen and Martin are the closest prospects to taking the outfield. 

But Pluto says an abundance of outfielders isn't necessarily a bad thing. He notes that in 2016, the team had 12 different outfielders, and then went to the World Series. 

Other observations
All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor hasn't been playing in spring training games while he recovers from a calf injury, and Pluto says it's up in the air as to whether he'll play opening day. He has been playing a few minor league games to rehab. 

“The question will be, do you hold him back an extra week or two, because calf injuries are very tricky," Pluto says. "They’ve been having Lindor play in minor league games. He wants to play opening day, he thinks he’s ready, but I don’t know if the Indians will let him play.”

As for the pitching staff, Pluto says, "they probably have the best starting rotation in baseball," including Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco. 

The Indians opening day is March 28 in Minnesota against the Twins.