The first in a series of updates from Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona
Reid J May
Pitchers and Catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona for their first workouts of the season on Thursday February 12, and with that in mind it’s time to start thinking about the big questions behind this year’s Cleveland Indians ball club. From now until opening day Goodtimes in Goodyear will appear in the Cauldron periodically to update Cleveland State on the happenings out west.
To start things off, here are five questions that Indians brass will begin considering between now and Opening Day, April 10, 2009.
• Who will round out the rotation? Going in the Indians have two guaranteed starters in 2008 Cy Young Award Winner Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona. Carl Pavano has been guaranteed a spot in the rotation so long as he remains healthy all spring, and Anthony Reyes is likely to claim the fourth if his end of the season elbow issues do not flare up again. The fifth spot will need to be filled internally, at least until mid-season when Jake Westbrook returns. Candidates include Dave Huff, Aaron Laffey, Zach Jackson, Scott Lewis and Jeremy Sowers, with Laffey considered the favorite.
• Who starts in Left Field? For now, Ben Francisco looks like he will get his shot. If Francisco struggles in the early part of the year the Indians will not hesitate to bring try one of the three highly touted prospects waiting in Columbus. Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta and Trevor Crowe all have a chance to be a factor with this year’s club. The Indians also have the versatility of Mark Derosa to fall back on. If need be, Derosa can play either left or right field. Do not count on seeing much of David Dellucci.
• With both Kelly Shoppach and Victor Martinez proving their worth, who plays? Ideally, the Indians would love to play both Shoppach and Martinez, while still finding at-bats for Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner. Because they cannot, look for Martinez to significant time (25-40 games) at first base, and possibly DH if Hafner struggles. If Garko plays the first half of 2009 like the did the second half of 2008 it will make it difficult to leave him out and we might see him get some time in the outfield—apparently Eric Wedge will try him there in camp—to keep all three (Hafner, Garko, Martinez) bats in the lineup. If all four of these guys are having monster years look for someone—most likely Shoppach or Garko—to be trade bait in July.
• How will the bullpen shake out? An annual debate in Cleveland, the bullpen has a definitive tone to it this year. Six spots are guaranteed to Kerry Wood, Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Masa Kobayashi, Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis. Look for recently signed Vinnie Chulk to compete with Ed Mujica, Jon Meloan and Adam Miller for the seventh and final position.
• Will Mark Derosa see time at second base? Probably. The more significant question is how much time, and that will be answered over the course of the year, not in March. If Jhonny Peralta struggles with his range at shortstop, Wedge may be eager to move Asdrubal Cabrera to shortstop, leaving Derosa a as the second baseman. For now, expect to see him at third consistently.