GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — With injured All-Star Michael Brantley likely out for the first portion of the season, the Cleveland Indians spent plenty of time this offseason looking for ways to fill the large hole he’ll leave in the outfield.
That search became more difficult Friday when Abraham Almonte was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Boldenone.
Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona had high expectations this season for the 26-year-old outfielder.
“It’s extremely disappointing. Abe has accepted responsibility for the test results as he talked with me and Tito,” Chernoff said. “We were hoping that he would be a large contributor for our major league team this year and for the first 80 games, he can’t do that.”
The Indians released a statement as well, in which the team supported MLB’s stance on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Almonte was set to address his teammates on Saturday, before he is removed from the team’s 40-man roster and placed on the restricted list.
While he’s out, Almonte won’t be able to play in regular-season big league games until July. He will remain in the Indians’ clubhouse throughout spring training.
After he was acquired by the Indians at the 2015 trade deadline for left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski, Almonte played in 51 games for Cleveland, hitting .264 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.
His on-field play impressed the team. So did his clubhouse presence.
“I think the best way I could describe it is, he paid attention to detail so well. I mean that in a complimentary way,” Francona said. “It was just a really nice acquisition for us at a time when guys are leaving and some young kids are coming. He did a really good job of solidifying that.”
Almonte is third major league player to be suspended for drugs this year. Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia drew a permanent ban and Cincinnati prospect Juan Duran got an 80-game penalty.
With Almonte now out of commission for the first four months, Chernoff said the Indians will exhaust all options as they continue to put together their outfield. Brantley is sidelined while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
“We need to work through internal, external options, anything, figure out the best path forward,” Chernoff said. “We’re going to have to rely on the depth that we have here and try to fill a hole that he otherwise would have filled.”
The current options in Cleveland for the outfield spots include Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Zach Walters and Tyler Naquin, as well as non-roster invitees Joey Butler, Shane Robinson, Robbie Grossman and newly signed veteran Will Venable.
While the Indians are open to many options in the outfield, it doesn’t seem as if they’ll insert top their top minor league outfield prospects, Clint Frazier and Bradley Zimmer, into the mix.
“We still have a lot of outfielders up here,” Chernoff said. “I don’t know that it will have any impact on those guys.”
NOTES: There is no update from the Indians on the status of veteran infielder Juan Uribe, who agreed to a one-year contract with the team last week. He’s still working through issues regarding his visa that won’t allow him to travel to the United States and take a physical before signing with the Indians. … The Indians are having former manager Mike Hargrove in camp as a guest instructor. Francona said that he loves to have Hargrove around and indicated that he stays close with the former skipper in the offseason.