Better late than never for the Cleveland Indians season preview and let me say this up front.
I love the Indians and as previously stated,if the National League adopted the DH or the American League dropped it,I would cover the Tribe.
I have been a Pirates fan longer and love the NL game,but if the games were the same,I am an Ohio guy....
That covered-This is one boring team.
There are very few things worse than watching a bad and boring team,ask any Browns fan..
The team has been disappointed often with their prospects and of the few that have panned out,most have come from other teams.
If there is an indictment of the problems with the Indians organization-that is the smoking gun.
Cleveland does have a good and young catcher in Carlos Santana,who the Indians recently signed to a five year contract extension,so they have that goin' for them.
Santana's average was disappointing last season (.239),but 27 homers from your catcher is very good news.
Locking Santana up for the long term is a smart move by the Indians.
Glove first backstop Lou Marson will spell Santana as the caddy on Santana's day off.
Casey Kotchman was signed from Tampa Bay to start at first base after his best year in the league.
Don't get too excited as despite Kotchman's .300 plus average,he hit just ten homers and for a team crying for power production,looks to bring very little help in that area.
Cleveland will hodgepodge backups for Kotchman from other positions as both Carlos Santana and Shelley Duncan will occasionally grab the first baseman's mitt as the perpetually disappointing Matt LaPorta was sent to AAA Columbus.
The only exciting newcomer is rookie Jason Kipnis at second.
Kipnis was a college outfielder was switched to second after the Indians drafted him.
Kipnis will never be a stellar defensive second sacker,but his bat will hopefully make up for those deficiencies.
Asdrubal Cabrera returns at shortstop after a 25 homer season that represents over half of his career homer total.
Can Cabrera maintain those power numbers?
I am dubious,but if so,the Indians will be much the better for it.
Jack Hannahan turned back the challenge of Lonnie Chisenhall in Arizona to earn the starting spot at third base.Chisenhall was sent to play every day at Columbus.
Hannahan is better suited to a backup role,so the hope is for Chisenhall to put together a solid month or two in Central Ohio and grab the job at third for the duration.
Utilitymen Jason Donald and Jose Lopez will cover the backup spots between them for the spot starts behind Kipnis,Cabrera and Hannahan.
The outfield is nothing to fear either with journeyman Shelley Duncan in left,enigmatic Michael Brantley in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right.
Only Choo,who missed plenty of time last season with injuries is anything remotely considered as a solid starter on a good team.
Blog favorite Aaron Cunningham is on the team as the fourth outfielder due to his speed and ability to play all three outfield positions,but his time may be numbered with the signing of aging veteran Johnny Damon.
The 38 year old Damon is clearly in decline,but he is very durable,which is far more than can be said for the once brilliant and now embattled Grady Sizemore,who is yet again on the disabled list.
Travis Hafner finishes a long and lucrative contract this season and will be the designated hitter for as long as his health holds up.
The starting rotation ranges from strong to riddled to old to question marks.
Justin Masterson was terrific at the top of the rotation in what was his clear breakout season.
Can Masterson repeat that and prove himself as an ace?
Maybe and speaking of maybes-Ubaldo Jimenez has went from dominant to average in almost record time.
Jimenez started an All-Star game and has been traded and pitched poorly since.
Jimenez has seen a drop in his velocity and considering the three pitchers that were swapped to Colorado for him that all resided in the Indians top ten prospects at the time,the trade could eventually be the Waterloo of the Indians front office.
Jimenez looked very strong in his first start,so I have not given hope.
Veteran Derek Lowe was obtained from Atlanta after posting the highest ERA of his career (5.05) to lend stability to the rotation.
Lowe turns 39 in June,so this season will go a long way into seeing what he has left in the tank.
Another favorite of ours in Josh Tomlin won 12 games last season with an ERA a bit above four.Tomlin's stuff is not the top of the line,but he manages to keep his team in the game and should have the chance to cement a spot at the end of the rotation.
Jeanmar Gomez will have a chance as well as the injury that will keep Carlos Carrasco out for the year will give Tomlin,Gomez and likely a few pitchers from Columbus given chances in the rotation.
Lefthander David Huff will have the first chance at that once he returns from the disabled list..
Chris Perez returns as the closer after a 36 save season in 2011.
Perez heads a non-descript bullpen filled with names that few would consider top notch.
Vinnie Pestano looks to be the top setup man with Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez the top lefthanders.
Veteran Joe Smith leads the remaining relievers as he is joined by former Brave Jairo Ascencio and well traveled Dan Wheeler.
The Indians do not look like a contender,nor do they look exciting.
They look well...dull...
Photo Credit:Chris Creamer