Brayan Rocchio wins battle to be Guardians' primary shortstop

Mar. 22—Brayan Rocchio and Gabriel Arias were locked in a battle to be the Guardians' primary shortstop even before spring training in Goodyear, Ariz., began last month. The battle intensified as the Cactus League season heated up.

Rocchio has emerged the winner, Manager Stephen Vogt announced March 22 on a Zoom call. The Guardians open their 2024 season on March 28 when they face the A's in Oakland.

"We informed both Gabby and Brayan today that they will both be on the opening day roster as we start the season," Vogt said. "Brayan Rocchio will get the bulk of reps at shortstop with Gabby being kind of our utility player with getting a lot of playing time in multiple positions.

"Brayan could move around as well. I think the beauty of having both of them on the team is they both bring defensive versatility."

Manager Stephen Vogt, sitting alongside #Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, explains the decision to make Brayan Rocchio the primary shortstop.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) March 22, 2024

In other news, Vogt said he told Carlos Carrasco and Tyler Beede, not to be confused with Tanner Bibee, that both pitchers will be on the 26-man when spring training breaks next week. Team president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti added that either Carrasco or Beede will fill in as the fifth starter while Gavin Williams heals from elbow soreness. There is no structural damage to Williams's elbow.

Rocchio, 23 years old, is batting .270 in 13 Cactus League games. The native of Venezuela has homered once and driven in two runs. He struck only twice in 37 at-bats.

Arias is hitting .206 in Cactus League games. He also has homered once and driven in two runs, but he struck out nine times in 34 at-bats over 12 games.

Arias struggled at the plate during his time with the Guardians in 2023, too. He played in 122 games, mostly at shortstop, and hit .210. He showed some power with 10 home runs while driving in 26 runs, but he struck out 113 times and walked only 28 times in 315 at bats.

Rocchio played in 23 games with the Guardians in 2023. He batted .247 and drove in eight runs, but did not homer. He struck out 27 times in 86 at bats.

Vogt did not mention Arias's lack of hitting when explaining his decision to go with Rocchio. Both players are superb defensively. Both bat right-handed.

"I think for me it's the consistency at which Brayan works, the consistency at which he approaches each day is kind of what led us there," Vogt said. "Equally, the ability for Gabby to move around the diamond is what led to it. And to be able to use both of them I think is what we're more focused on.

"But Brayan has really, really ramped up, not only this spring, but in years prior just talking with everybody here. We've seen the way he's trended and the way that he's worked to get himself to this point."

Arias is one of the six players the Guardians acquired from San Diego when they traded pitcher Mike Clevinger and outfielder Greg Allen to the Padres on Aug. 31, 2020. The Guardians also acquired first baseman Josh Naylor, catcher Austin Hedges, pitchers Cal Quantrill plus Joey Cantillo plus utility infielder Owen Miller in the trade.