Spring Training Notes 2/18: Cody Allen secures closer role

When Andrew Miller was acquired at the trade deadline this past July, there was question as to whether or not he would surpass Cody Allen as the new closer. By employing Miller into high leverage situations rather than the final frame, manager Terry Francona answered that question. A similar scenario with Allen in the ninth inning should be expected in 2017.

Despite the departures of Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp and Jeff Manship, the Cleveland Indians have kept the core of their 2016 roster intact for the foreseeable future. With many familiar faces at big league camp this spring, there are few decisions to be made in terms of everyday jobs and bullpen alignment. 

Two days after naming Yan Gomes the first string catcher, manager Terry Francona deemed Cody Allen the Tribe's closer on Saturday afternoon. The 28-year-old was brilliant last season by converting 32 of his 35 save opportunities with a 1.00 WHIP, .177 opposing batting average and 11.51 K/9.

Other stories from the club's first full squad workout pertain to Michael Brantley's progress, Greg Allen's endurance and Carlos Santana's spot in the batting order.

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- For the fourth consecutive campaign, Allen will be the Indians' closer. Francona prefers the former 23rd round pick to act as an end point to each contest after using Miller and Bryan Shaw in the mid-to-late innings. 

"It was easy because of the team and the organization," said Miller about his role and transition from New York to Cleveland. "We got it done a lot of different ways, but I think the bullpen was a key part of a lot of that. Just to be able to rely on the next guy, pitch as long as you can until Tito basically says next guy up and go with it. It was a lot of fun."

No matter when he toes the rubber, Allen embraces the opportunity to compete at the game's highest level.

"You're just waiting for your number to be called," Allen said to reporters. "We're not down there to think about what [Francona's] going to do. We're just down there to do what he's about to ask us to do."

- More than one player with the last name Allen made headlines on Saturday. After Dylan Baker conquered the crown in the pitchers and catchers endurance test, Greg Allen showcased his wheels and won the position player race over other top finishers including Erik Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela. The former San Diego State standout figures to start the year in the minor leagues, but has intriguing speed with 30 steals in 2014 (Mahoning Valley), 46 steals in 2015 (Lake County and Lynchburg) and 45 steals in 2016 (Lynchburg and Akron).

- Brantley's hitting progression continues to be a major focal point from Goodyear, AZ. After taking non-contact swings and hitting off a tee throughout January and early February, Brantley has advanced to the soft toss stage, a step that was not taken until Mar. 2 last year, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. The gradual improvement is encouraging, but the Bellevue, WA native is still a ways away from playing in a game.

- Now that Davis has signed a one-year deal worth $6-million with the Oakland Athletics, there remains an opening atop Francona's daily lineup card. Santana was slotted in the leadoff position on 86 different occasions in 2016, but Francona would not commit to a top of the order bat after one practice.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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