SCOTTSDALE, Ariz: Veteran outfielder Austin Jackson will be breaking camp with the Indians.
The club on Sunday informed Jackson, in camp on a minor-league contract, that he would be making the Opening Day roster. Jackson was signed in the offseason to a low-risk deal worth $1.5 million that also includes up to $4 million in incentives. His inclusion on the 40-man roster won’t be an issue with Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner being offered back to the Philadelphia Phillies and Cody Anderson slated for Tommy John surgery on Monday.
Jackson, 30, had an opt-out clause in his contract that could have gone into effect on Sunday had he not been in the Indians’ Opening Day plans. Coming off of left knee surgery, Jackson had hit .375 with one home run and five doubles this spring entering Sunday’s game.
Jackson was delayed a bit this spring due to his rehab from surgery and hasn’t been tested too much in center field in Cactus League play. But the Indians have liked how he’s been moving around and can rely on his track record as a league veteran.
“I thought he did a really good job of getting himself ready and then being prepared, but we don’t have to overwhelm him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And I think he is going to be a very good complementary player. He knows how to play, and he’s a good veteran. … You watch him move around, and he’s moving fine. He may not be as fast as he used to be. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a good outfielder.”
He’ll be added to the outfield mix along with, when healthy, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer and Tyler Naquin. Jackson’s selection to the major-league roster begins to clear up the Opening Day outfield picture, but there’s still much for the Indians to figure out before April 3.
Namely, those questions revolve around the health of Brantley and Chisenhall. Brantley is still working his way back from biceps tenodesis surgery last August. He’s started playing back-to-back games, an important step in his rehab, but the Indians still don’t have a clear picture as to how his shoulder will respond to extended periods of game speed.
Chisenhall crashed into a wall on Friday and has a mild sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. Francona said Chisenhall was “much improved” on Sunday. He’ll be re-evaluated within the next day or two. Both players’ statuses for the beginning of the season are still unknown.
Their health will likely determine where Abraham Almonte opens the season. Almonte has had a positive spring, hitting .390 with two home runs, three doubles, 10 RBI and seven stolen bases entering Sunday. He has an option remaining, so the Indians aren’t in danger of exposing him to waivers.
If both Brantley and Chisenhall are unable to be ready by the beginning of the season, that would lead to a number of possible roster configurations on top of Almonte’s inclusion as the fourth outfielder. Jose Ramirez could start at third base, second base or even left field, though his remaining in the infield is more likely. Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez and Michael Martinez would then be the group left to fill out either the infield — perhaps third base, with Ramirez moving to second base to cover for Jason Kipnis’ absence due to shoulder inflammation — and the bench.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.