The Indians added another veteran to their outfield mix this spring, signing Will Venable with a minor league deal that includes a non-roster invite to Major League camp.
Venable, 33, will join a crowded outfield competition that includes Abraham Almonte, Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Zach Walters (now focusing primarily on outfield work), Robbie Grossman, Shane Robinson, Michael Choice, James Ramsey and Tyler Naquin. With Michael Brantley expected to be sidelined roughly the first month of the season, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall look to have two slots nailed down until Brantley’s return.
Almonte, who manned center field for much of the second half of last season and Cowgill, who could platoon with Chisenhall in right field and has the ability to play all three spots in the outfield, could be the top two contenders in that field.
Venable, a left-handed hitter with some speed, has traditionally been better against right-handed pitching, posting a career .256 batting average and .422 slugging percentage against righties. Against left-handed pitchers, he’s hit .222 with a .329 slugging percentage. He’s also stolen at least 16 bases in five of his six full seasons at the Major League level.
Venable has spent most of his career in center field and right field and has graded out better at the latter spot. He was also teammates with Indians general manager Mike Chernoff while at Princeton.
“I’ve known Will for 12 or 13 years, followed his career, stayed in touch with him periodically during that career,” Chernoff said. “It’s really fun to watch some of the guys that you played with succeed and have the types of career that he, Chris Young, Ross Ohlendorf, guys like that have had. … He’ll come in and compete just like all the other guys in camp. That doesn’t hold any weight on anything. But it’s certainly good to know someone’s character, what he stands for and the type of guy he is when you bring in someone like that.”
The agreement was first reported by Fox Sports.