Manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti bear little resemblance to William Shakespeare. Moreover, Matt Capps and Daisuke Matsuzaka will never be mistaken for Romeo and Juliet, but all four are about to take part in one of baseball’s little dramas.
Capps and Matsuzaka were told Monday they would not be part of the Tribe’s Opening Day roster, but that the organization wanted them to stick around, polishing their skills in the minors.
Because both players are major-league free agents signed to minor-league contracts, they have a right to flee the Indians on March 26. But if each player accepts the offer of a $100,000 retention bonus from the Tribe, he is agreeing to be sent to Triple-A until June 1.
On the other hand, Matsuzaka and Capps have the right to refuse the bonus and become free agents. That might be beneficial to them if another club offers a roster spot. If not, maybe their quickest path back to the big leagues is to stay in the Indians organization, even if it means dropping down to Triple-A.
What to do? There’s the rub, as the Bard might say.
“We’d like to keep both guys in the organization,” Antonetti said. “It’s a little different with both, but neither was going to make the Opening Day roster. We thought we’d inform them now and keep them in camp and let them know that if and when they get back to full strength, we think they can help us.”
Matsuzaka, through his translator, said he wants to stay, which means he will be headed for Triple-A Columbus.
Capps is coming off a season in which he was stymied by a shoulder injury that did not require surgery. Matsuzaka hasn’t been the same since undergoing elbow reconstruction surgery in June 2011.
Currently, health is not an issue with either pitcher except that both need more time to build arm strength and endurance, more time than is available between now and the end of camp.
Asked if Capps is behind other bullpen contenders, Antonetti said, “A little bit. I think he feels good and feels healthy; he’s working his way back, headed in the right direction. But other guys are ahead of him.”
In four appearances in exhibition games, Capps, a former closer, has given up two runs, four hits and three walks in four innings. Matsuzaka has worked in four exhibition games, allowing two runs, 10 hits and one walk in eight innings. Both pitchers have pitched in B games or against minor leaguers, as well.
Matsuzaka suffered a small setback when he left a game last week with a cramp in his leg. That put him a few days behind, and while other starters have stretched their arms out to five innings, Matsuzaka is only up to three.
“We were not seeing what we wanted to see or what he thinks he can do for us as a pitcher,” Francona said.
With four starters already named to the rotation — Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister and Brett Myers — Matsuzaka was one of three pitchers contending for the fifth spot. Scott Kazmir is the favorite to win the job, but Carlos Carrasco has pitched well lately. Both were far ahead of Matsuzaka, or Dice-K.
“Dice-K has shown an interest in staying here, so now we can work through the logistics with (agent) Scott (Boras),” Antonetti said.
It is believed that Matsuzaka is prepared to accept the retention bonus rather than try to negotiate a new deal. Under the terms of his contract, he will receive a $1.5 million major league salary if and when he makes the club.
Antonetti indicated that offering the retention bonus to both pitchers might be enough to induce them to stay, but that it might be necessary to negotiate other options.
“It made sense to us to address the issue sooner,” Antonetti said. “It’s something we have to work through, but we still have more than a week (until March 26). The potential is there that we could talk about other alternatives (than the retention bonus).”