The Indians have designated outfielder Abraham Almonte and right-hander Ben Taylor for assignment in order to clear roster spots for veterans Matt Belisle and Rajai Davis, whose contracts have been selected from Triple-A Columbus. Michael Brantley, Giovanny Urshela, Danny Salazar and Ryan Merritt will open the season on the 10-day disabled list.
Davis will return for a second tour of duty in Cleveland, where he’s already established himself in Indians lore thanks to his dramatic Game 7 home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 2016 World Series. Davis paced the AL with 43 steals for Cleveland that season, and he racked up 29 steals with just 366 plate appearances between the A’s and Red Sox last season. Now 37 years of age, he’ll give the Indians plenty of speed off the bench and an established bat against left-handed pitching.
Belisle, meanwhile, gives manager Terry Francona a veteran bullpen arm that struggled early in the 2017 campaign with the Twins but rebounded to dominate over the season’s final four months. Over his final 38 1/3 innings last year, Belisle worked to a 1.41 ERA with a terrific 36-to-8 K/BB ratio and just four homers allowed. Following the trade of Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, Belisle picked up nine saves as the closer in Minnesota.
Almonte, 28, was on the outside looking in for a Cleveland outfield mix that features Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Davis and, once he’s healthy, Brantley. The switch-hitting Almonte had a strong half-season showing for the Tribe in 2015 but missed half the 2016 campaign due to an 80-game PED suspension and hit just .249/.304/.384 in 389 plate appearances from 2016-17.
The 26-year-old Taylor was a seventh-round pick of the Red Sox in 2015. He saw his first major league action last season and tossed 17 1/3 innings of 5.19 ERA, notching 9.35 K/9, 4.67 BB/9 and a paltry 26.4 percent ground-ball rate along the way. Taylor was more successful in his Triple-A debut in 2017, albeit over an even smaller sample (13 1/3 frames), as he worked to a 2.70 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.38 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent grounder mark.