Cleveland Guardians plan to roll with three catchers to start season

Feb 23, 2023; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Guardians catcher Mike Zunino (10) during photo day in
Feb 23, 2023; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Guardians catcher Mike Zunino (10) during photo day in / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

File this one under things we didn't expect. At least for the time being, the Guardians are going to carry three catchers on their Opening Day roster. Though this does seem odd at first glance, it actually makes a ton of sense.

The conventional wisdom before and during the early parts of camp was that the club may go with five outfielders, or possibly seven infielders (this includes DH because Josh Bell and Josh Naylor are expected to rotate between first and DH). Guys like Will Brennan, Roman Quinn, Richie Palacios, Gabriel Arias, and Tyler Freeman were believed to be in the running for those bench spots.

However, there was one thing that most fans knew, but for whatever we all overlooked: Mike Zunino and his road back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Again, this is likely to be a very temporary situation. Things could even change before Opening Day if someone else out there is cut from another team. But as it stands right now, the Guardians will have both Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria waiting in the wings to back up Zunino.

By carrying three catchers, manager Terry Francona has a ton of flexibility behind the dish. He won't have to rely solely on Zunino day in and day out. Francona will also be able to pinch-hit in late-inning situations and not worry about the wear and tear it would take on a guy like Zunino as he continues his way back to a full-time-ish role. This a smart short-term move that I can get behind to start the season.

There is one caveat, though. Both Gallagher and Viloria will need to be added to the 40-man roster in the coming days. We'll have to see how that plays out, but with some creative thinking, I trust the front office to make it work.