Indians bolster roster with three late signings

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The Indians' furious offseason of player acquisition continued right into the start of spring training with three late signings that considerably altered the makeup of the roster.

The biggest news was the unexpected signing of outfielder Michael Bourn, which led to some major position switches for the projected lineup as spring training got under way. When the dust had settled, the Indians unveiled an outfield of three center fielders, which is good news for the team's suspect pitching staff.

Bourn, who was signed to a four-year, $48 million contract, was a two-time Gold Glove center fielder in the National League, and Indians manager Terry Francona announced that Bourn will play center field for the Indians. Michael Brantley, who played center field for the Indians last year, will move to left field.

Drew Stubbs, who is an elite defensive center fielder as well, will move to right field. An outfield of Brantley, Bourn and Stubbs won't provide much power, but it will provide lots of speed and superior defense.

The move of Stubbs to right field resulted in Nick Swisher being moved to first base, replacing Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, in turn, slides into the designated hitter role, which had been a question mark before the team signed Bourn. Reynolds has just 40 at-bats in the DH role, so his transition to that spot will be worth watching. Francona said Reynolds will still get an occasional start at first base, and he remains an alternative at third base if Lonnie Chisenhall struggles or gets injured.

The other two late signings were two veterans, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and designated hitter/first baseman Jason Giambi. Both were signed to minor-league contracts with invitations to the major-league training camp as non-roster players.

Matsuzaka has an extended history with Francona, having pitched for him in Boston when Francona was managing the Red Sox. Matsuzaka, however, was just 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts for Boston last year, his first season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Matsuzaka is one of seven pitchers competing for two openings in the Indians' rotation.

Giambi was signed a few days before Bourn, whose signing had the trickle-down effect of filling the DH role that Giambi potentially could have filled. Reynolds, on a major-league contract and earning $6 million, is seemingly locked into the DH role, so the chances of the 42-year-old Giambi being on the opening day roster are significantly diminished. It's possible the Indians could keep the left-handed-hitting Giambi as an occasional DH and pinch-hitter.
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