March Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

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Spring Training is supposed to be the time of the year when all teams believe they have a shot at the title in the fall and fans all over the country have dreams of watching their team in the playoffs come October. The only thing that could derail this is injuries to some of the team’s biggest contributors and that is exactly what has happened to the Cleveland Indians during the early days of spring training.

One position the Indians thought they had wrapped up coming into the season is the role of the closer. Chris Perez played well all season last year and was selected to the All Star team. The hope in having Perez for the entire season was quickly dashed during the first few days of spring training when he sustained an injury and is now out for an estimated six weeks.

Another piece for the Tribe that is already headed to the disabled list is oft injured outfielder Grady Sizemore. The Indians spent a great deal of time during the off season deciding whether to bring Sizemore back and ultimately they decided not to pick up his option, but then signed him to a one-year free agent deal for less money. Sizemore has had surgery on his back, and will be out as long as 12 weeks.

English: Cleveland Indians player Grady Sizemo...

In non-injury related news, Indians manager Manny Acta officially named Justin Masterson the Opening Day starter last week. Based on last year’s performance, many thought this was a forgone conclusion, but there was some consideration given to Ubaldo Jimenez. Since Jimenez was acquired in a much publicized deal at the trading deadline last season, some thought he would not acclimate to being the number two starter after all of the success he had with the Colorado Rockies.

On the subject of Jimenez; his name was in the news this week again due to information related to his trade this past July. One of the top pitching prospects the Indians traded for Jimenez, Alex White, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving near the Colorado Rockies’ training facility. If White had still been a member of the Tribe, he would have been the third member of the team in the past year to get arrested for reasons related to drunk driving. The other two were outfielders Austin Kearns (during last year’s Spring Training) and Shin Soo Choo (during the regular season).

Justin Masterson

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One of the most surprising parts of the Indians’ Spring Training so far was the appearance of one of the team’s former sluggers, Albert Belle. Belle was an important part of the Tribe squad from 1995 that lost to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Belle did not leave the Indians on the best of terms when he left as a free agent to the Chicago White Sox and many believed that would be the last the team would ever see of him. There are now thoughts that Belle may join the Indians as some type of Spring Training instructor in the future.

The Indians have not had a stellar start to Spring Training. Through their first four games, the Indians had lost two games, tied one and won one. However, the outcomes of Spring Training games have come to mean almost nothing as long as the manager is getting the team set for the season.

There are still a number of  questions for filling out the Indians roster. In fact, the areas up for contention are pretty much mirror images of those that were up for grabs at the same time last year. The constant problem is that the Indians have struggled to find a big bat from any position. The Indians have signed a number of players to Minor League contracts with an invite to Spring Training in the hopes that they find the bat they have been missing hiding in the hands of one of these players.

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