Cleveland Indians: Merritt In, Gimenez Out as ALCS Roster is Set

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Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher Chris Gimenez (38) against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher Chris Gimenez (38) against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. The Tigers won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cleveland Indians finalized their roster for the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, making a tough, but necessary, decision.

It’s difficult not to feel a little bit bad for Chris Gimenez. When the Cleveland Indians announced their 25-man roster for the American League Championship Series on Friday morning, the 33-year old backup catcher was left off in favor of an extra bullpen arm.

While the decision is a tough one for Gimenez, who has been the only mainstay of the catching corps since joining the team in May, it was also the correct decision. In a seven-game series with just two off days built into the schedule, having an extra reliever is simply more important than a third catcher.

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24-year old rookie Ryan Merritt, who appeared in four games for Cleveland during the regular season, will take Gimenez’s place on the roster. Merritt gives manager Terry Francona a second left-handed option out of the bullpen behind Andrew Miller.

In his first career start, which came on September 30th against the Kansas City Royals, the former 16th-round draft pick in 2011 tossed five innings of one-run, three-hit ball, and in 11 total big league innings held opposing batters to a .167/.167/.194 slash line.

There had been some hope that Danny Salazar would be far enough along in his recovery from a strained right forearm to be a bullpen option for the series, but that dream was put to rest by Francona on Wednesday.

Roberto Perez caught every inning of the Indians’ ALDS sweep of the Boston Red Sox, and with Yan Gomes having returned from both a separated shoulder and broken wrist in time for the postseason, had the luxury of leaving Gimenez roster.

Perez was key to the Tribe’s advancing, spurring the Game One win, managing the pitching staff, and utilizing his advanced framing skills.

Gimenez slashed just .216/.272/.331 in 69 games for Cleveland during the regular season, which seems poor until you take into account that the backstops as a unit had a collective .185/.244/.320 slash line. Gomes posted an OPS+ of 33 in his 74 games, which is a historically bad number.

Francona used only four relief pitchers in the Boston series in Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Dan Otero, but the expanded schedule of the ALCS coupled with the Indians still working with a thin starting rotation makes Merritt’s presence a necessity. Particularly looking ahead to Game Four in Toronto, in which the Tribe at the moment plans to start rookie Mike Clevinger and rely heavily on the bullpen, the extra relief arm may come in handy.

Cleveland has gotten this far thanks in large part to Francona’s orchestration of the roster, earning home-field advantage in the playoffs and cruising past the heavily-favored Red Sox. The club deserves the benefit of the doubt in how the ALCS roster has been constructed.

Next: ALCS Position-by-Position Breakdown

It remains to be seen how large a role Merritt will play for the Indians against the Jays, but his inclusion on the roster reflects the increased usage the bullpen can expect in the series. While it’s normal human emotion to feel bad for Gimenez after his contributions all season, it’s likely that the veteran has no qualms about being left off. As he and the rest of the team have shown throughout the year, the only thing that matters is to keep on winning.

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