Spring Training Notes 2/21: Yandy Diaz not part of utility battle

There are three utility options competing for a spot on the opening day roster according to manager Terry Francona: Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez and Ronnie Rodriguez. Although Yandy Diaz is a notable omission from this list, he could be in for a more substantial role as a starter in the future years of the organization.

Even with World Series aspirations in mind, the Cleveland Indians are preparing for both the present and future generations of the franchise.

At the forefront of this conversation is Yandy Diaz, the 10th ranked prospect in the Tribe’s farm system according the MLB Pipeline. While the 25-year-old out of Cuba could be a utility option courtesy of his infield and outfield experience in the minor leagues, manager Terry Francona neglected to mention him when asked about the primary candidates for the job.

Other headlines from Tuesday’s workout include Michael Brantley, Austin Jackson, Abraham Almonte and the young crop of outfield talent consisting of Bradley Zimmer, Greg Allen and Diaz.

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- One of the few positional battles waiting to be determined is the utility spot. Despite having a variety of players available for the flexible role, Francona said Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez and Ronnie Rodriguez are his three targets this spring.

“Some of it will maybe be determined by what we need,” Francona said to an assembled group of reporters. “That’s why you try to get a handle on guys the best you can. Need really does matter. You want guys to fit.”

- Brantley is still grinding through the opening portion of big league camp despite his physical limitations and conservative hitting progression. Jason Kipnis confirmed his teammate’s relentless work ethic displayed over the last week of practice on Tuesday.

“He is in there every single day. You knew he would be,” said Kipnis. “Sometimes, injuries get the best of people and there’s nothing you can do about it. The work he’s put in, he’ll get back there.”

- Approximately one year ago, Tyler Naquin had a shot to leap the depth charts and make the opening day roster when Francona talked to him at camp. This same message reportedly does not apply to Zimmer, Allen or Diaz.

“I think we all feel like it’d be in their best interest to play in Triple-A,” Francona said. “You can make mistakes evaluating in spring training. We try to learn as much as we can about them, but I think you can make some bad mistakes by thinking you have the end-all, be-all evaluation."

- For the time being, Almonte and Jackson will clash in a competition for the final spot(s) in the outfield. If Brantley is unable to play when the campaign commences, then both veterans will likely secure a spot alongside Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer.

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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