The Cleveland Guardians announced Tuesday that they had optioned infielder Tyler Freeman to Triple-A Columbus and reassigned top prospects Micah Pries and Luis Oviedo to minor-league camp, further trimming down the spring training roster with only six games remaining before the start of the 2023 season.
Manager Terry Francona also said to reporters Tuesday that reliever Nick Mikolajchak had an MRI that revealed a sprained UCL. The team is determining the next steps for Mikolajchak, but Francona said, "He was doing really well. He was in a good place. He will be in a good place again. It's just gonna take a little while.” Without surgery, it could take only a few weeks to heal, but surgery to repair his UCL would likely end his season.
Mikolajchak left Saturday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a right arm injury and was evaluated further Sunday morning. He had flashed a 1.93 ERA across seven appearances this spring.
Freeman was vying for a spot as a utility man on the roster, competing with Gabriel Arias, who appears to have won the job for the Guardians. Freeman is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he made his major-league debut and played in 24 games, grabbing 16 hits, three doubles and three RBIs with a .247 batting average. In just 34 at-bats this spring in Goodyear, Arizona Freeman hit .147 with three RBIs and four steals. According to Cleveland.com, President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said there were likely not enough at-bats in the spring to keep both Freeman and Arias on the 26-man roster.
Arias played in fewer games with much less success during his debut season last year, but impressed this spring to the tune of a .350 batting average, three RBIs and ten runs scored along with an .820 OPS in 40 at-bats. Freeman has been one of Cleveland’s most highly-touted prospects since he was chosen in the competitive balance round in 2017, tearing through the minor leagues. Though he spent most of 2021 overcoming shoulder surgery, raising questions about his viability as a third baseman, Freeman drove in 44 runs last year with Columbus, slashing .279/.371/.364 through 72 games.
He’ll be waiting in the wings for Arias to slip or a roster spot to open up.
Mikolajchak, meanwhile, has quietly risen up the Guardians’ system after getting drafted in the 11th round of the 2019 draft. A college arm who played at Sam Houston State, Mikolajchak flashes a solid fastball, slider and changeup combination with a plus cutter and terrific command. He’s struck out 143 batters through 115 minor-league innings between each of Cleveland’s minor-league systems. He also holds a career 1.10 WHIP and has a 2.50 ERA, though his ERA has jumped to over three since he was promoted to Double-A Akron.
Mikolajchak was knocking on the door last season and looked to be one of the first pitchers called up in 2023. He could have possibly made a bullpen spot in the back end of a unit that is once again likely to be filled out by journeymen relievers and non-roster invitees. Mikolajchak has only been on the IL one other time, sitting on the seven-day IL last year for a little under a month with Akron.
Thirty-five players remain at spring training, with nine more cuts to go over the next week.