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Spring Training Notes 3/30: Yandy Diaz earns everyday third-base job

Yandy Diaz is officially on the Tribe's Opening Day roster and projected to start at the hot corner until Jason Kipnis (right shoulder inflammation) is deemed ready to return.

On March 1, Yandy Diaz found himself starting in left field and competing for a chance to break camp with the Cleveland Indians.

On March 30, Diaz was informed he had made the Opening Day roster as the club's newest everyday third baseman.

Sandwiched in between these two drastically different events was Jason Kipnis' right shoulder inflammation, an injury that shifted Jose Ramirez to second base and opened the door for Diaz at the hot corner. With Kipnis on the shelf for two to three additional weeks, Diaz's major league dream became a reality on Thursday morning.

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- Erik Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela were optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Diaz and Michael Martinez on the Game 1 lineup card. While Martinez figures to be the super utility man after playing six different positions in 2016, Diaz is slated to make his MLB debut in an everyday role.

"I'm so happy," Diaz said to reporters after hearing the news. "I think about all the sacrifices I've made over the past four years to make it here. I don't even know what to say, just thank God I'm here."

Diaz did everything in his power to earn the spot by hitting .429/.529/.667 (18-for-42) with four doubles, two home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.196 OPS in Cactus League play. The 25-year-old logged 16 innings in left field (205.2 MiLB innings) this spring before transitioning back to third base, a position he was much more accustomed to in the minor leagues (2,208 MiLB innings).

"He is some kind of hitter," said manager Terry Francona on Wednesday. "This kid's got a chance to be a really good hitter and a really good player."

Similar to Austin Jackson, Diaz and Martinez entered camp as non-roster invitees in the thick of a positional battle. Once Kipnis went down, the competition narrowed to a slew of third base candidates, including Urshela and Gonzalez. 

"Erik has come so far, and sitting early in the year is not going to help him develop," Francona said. "Michael really has done a good job in this role, knowing what his responsibilities are, and things like that. So, I think it's two-fold."

- The Indians will wait until the final day of spring training to make a final decision on Michael Brantley. The 2014 All-Star will reportedly bat third when he does return to the major leagues for the first time in over 300 days.

"He's in a pretty good spot," said Francona. "There's no reason we need to say something today, other than that he is in a really good place and he continues to trend in the right place."

Brantley has exceeded expectations this spring and batted .391/.440/.739 (9-for-23) with two doubles, two home runs and a 1.179 OPS through seven games played. 

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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