Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Email Travel Subscribe SI About Us 2001 MLB Spring Training

 
  CNNSI.com
  Spring Training Home
More MLB News
Scoreboards
• Cactus
• Grapefruit
Statistics
Schedules
• Day-by-Day
• Team-by-Team
Standings
Camp Sites
• Cactus
• Grapefruit
40-man Rosters
• AL | NL
SI's Baseball Preview 2001
Ozzie's Spring Rankings

EVENTS
 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

CENTERS
 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Video Plus
 Statitudes
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities
 

CNNSI.com GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

COMMERCE
 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia
 TeamStore


Cleveland Indians
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   What's the frequency, Kenneth? Lofton stole at least 30 bases for the seventh time in 2000. Allsport/Al Bello

By Lonny Krasnow, CNNSI.com

For a change, the Cleveland Indians won't spend any time at spring training telling postseason horror stories. That's because their 2000 season ended Oct. 1.

For the first time since 1996, the Indians aren't defending a division title.

Cleveland started last year as the only team to ever win the AL Central, but finished second to the Chicago White Sox and narrowly missed a wild-card playoff spot.

Indians manager Charlie Manuel had a rough first season. First, he had colon surgery in March. Then, he endured a painful season of injuries to his pitchers and inconsistency from the rest of the Indians.

"The biggest thing I learned last year was that 90 wins doesn't get you much," Manuel said.

The Indians, who finished one game out in the wild-card race, spent the winter trying to make sure second place was only a one-year thing.

They signed free agents Ellis Burks (three years, $20 million) and Juan Gonzalez (one year, $10 million) to offset the loss of Manny Ramirez, who took his RBIs with him for $160 million in Boston.

 
Top Guns
Indians 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Manny Ramirez  .351 
HR  Manny Ramirez  38 
RBIs  Manny Ramirez  122 
SB  Roberto Alomar  39 
Wins  D. Burba/C. Finley  16 
ERA  Bartolo Colon  3.88 
Ks  Chuck Finley  189 
Saves  Steve Karsay  20 
 
Go Figure

.838

Career RBIs per game for Juan Gonzalez -- fifth all-time behind Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth.
 
 

Cleveland also added catcher Eddie Taubensee to help replace Sandy Alomar Jr., who signed with the White Sox.

The Indians' lineup isn't the problem, though. Never was.

It all comes down to pitching.

Injuries forced the Indians to use a major league-record 32 pitchers, some of whom may never see the big leagues again.

The Tribe invited 36 pitchers to camp, but only two members of the starting rotation won't come in with health issues.

Bartolo Colon, the team's ace, has slimmed down and is in the best shape of his pro career. Dave Burba, too, is good to go.

But starters Chuck Finley, Jaret Wright and Charles Nagy all underwent offseason operations and each will be watched very carefully.

Finley had minor knee surgery but says he will be able to handle his normal throwing program. Wright had shoulder surgery in August and probably won't be ready for Opening Day. Nagy, who has no cartilage in his elbow, will have to pitch through the pain to get a starting job.

All the uncertainty is forcing the Indians to explore other options. Steve Karsay, a former starter converted into a reliever, will get a chance to win a starting job. But there are questions about his durability.

Steve Woodard will get a crack at winning the No. 5 spot, and journeymen Willie Blair and Ariel Prieto will get auditions during Grapefruit League action.

The Indians want to give both left-hander C.C. Sabathia and Cuban defector Danys Baez some Class AAA starts before they're brought up to the big club, but circumstances could dictate a change of plans.

Other than pitching, Manuel doesn't have many worries.

The Indians still have the game's best defense up the middle and the addition of Gonzalez and Burks could make Cleveland's lineup stronger than it was with Ramirez.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
LHP  Scott Aldred  Phillies  Free Agency 
RHP  Willie Blair  Tigers  Free Agency 
OF  Ellis Burks  Giants  Free Agency 
OF  Marty Cordova  Blue Jays  Free Agency 
OF  Karim Garcia  Orioles  Free Agency 
OF  Juan Gonzalez  Rangers  Free Agency 
LHP  Eric Gunderson  Blue Jays  Free Agency 
INF  Dave Hollins  Devil Rays  Free Agency 
OF  Butch Huskey  Rockies  Free Agency 
RHP  Ariel Prieto  Athletics  Free Agency 
LHP  Scott Radinsky  Cardinals  Free Agency 
RHP  Jerry Spradlin  Cubs  Free Agency 
Ed Taubensee  Reds  Trade 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
Sandy Alomar Jr.  White Sox  Free Agency 
RHP  Jason Bere  Cubs  Free Agency 
LHP  Jim Brower  Reds  Trade 
LHP  Chris Haney  Rangers  Free Agency 
RHP  Tom Martin  Mets  Free Agency 
OF  Manny Ramirez  Red Sox  Free Agency 
1B  David Segui  Orioles  Free Agency 

Spring Cleaning
 
Russ Branyan
  • There's no denying Russ Branyan's power potential. He hit 170 home runs in 601 minor league games and 16 bombs in 192 at-bats for the Tribe last season -- but the 97 whiffs are cause for alarm. The Indians need his left-handed bat in the lineup, but he has to learn the strike zone before he becomes the next Rob Deer.

  • Who will fill the leadership void now that Sandy Alomar Jr. has moved on? Einar Diaz and Taubensee will share duties behind the plate, but the take-charge attitude will have to come from veterans Kenny Lofton, Travis Fryman, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel.

  • And how will Manuel handle prima donna Roberto Alomar. The younger Alomar vowed, "I'll be the same without Sandy." Manuel and Alomar clashed twice last season after Robbie was hit by pitches and didn't feel Manuel ordered the proper retaliation -- though Alomar now says he has no problem with his manager.

  • A healthy Gonzalez will go a long way in helping the Indians survive the loss of Ramirez, but the two-time MVP has a history of back and hamstring problems. Will Gonzo continue his slide, or will he have a monster season to put himself in position to get a long-term deal beyond 2001?

  • Is Bob Wickman really the answer in the ninth inning? He saved 14 games for Cleveland after being acquired July 28, but Cleveland would like to see Paul Shuey emerge as the stopper. The injury-prone Shuey has closer's stuff, averaging more than a strikeout per inning in his career.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    CF  Kenny Lofton  RHP  Bartolo Colon 
    SS  Omar Vizquel  LHP  Chuck Finley 
    2B  Roberto Alomar  RHP  Dave Burba 
    RF  Juan Gonzalez  RHPs  Steve Karsay/Jaret Wright 
    1B  Jim Thome  RHPs  Steve Woodard/Charles Nagy 
    DH  Ellis Burks  Bullpen  
    3B  Travis Fryman  RHP  Bob Wickman (closer) 
    LF  Wil Cordero/Russ Branyan  RHP  Paul Shuey 
    Einar Diaz  LHP  Ricky Rincon 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Steve Reed 
    Eddie Taubensee  RHP  Sean DePaula 
    OF  Jacob Cruz  RHP  Justin Speier 
    INF  Jolbert Cabrera  LHP  David Riske 

    Prospects to Watch
  • LHP C.C. Sabathia -- A first-round pick in the 1998 draft, Sabathia is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound lefty with a very high ceiling. The Indians view him as a future No. 1 starter, so he will be handled with kid gloves -- appropriate considering he is just 20. Sabathia will be up at some point in 2001.

  • RHP Danys Baez -- The Tribe invested $14.5 million in this Cuban defector who is still a work in progress. Baez, 23, throws a mid-90's fastball and big curveball that needs refinement. He likely will begin the season in Class AAA but could called up at some point during the season.

  • RHP Tim Drew -- Although torched in three major league outings (9.0 IP, 10 ER), J.D. Drew's little brother could be a decent major league pitcher with some more seasoning in the minors. Drew, 22, has a great changeup but needs to work on his command.

  • RHP Zach Day -- Acquired from the Yankees in the David Justice deal, Day impressed with a strong return from a rotator cuff injury in 1999. Pitched solidly in 2000, ending his season at Class AA Akron, Day, 22, likely will start the season at Akron with a promotion to Class AAA if he starts off strong.

  • Best-Case Scenario
    The staff comes together: Bartolo Colon pitches like he did last September (3-0, 1.94 ERA); Finley has another 15-win season left in his 38-year-old arm; Burba and Woodard eat 200 innings apiece; Karsay takes the ball every fifth day; Wright and Nagy pitch through pain and combine for 15 wins.

    Juan Gone pulls a Big Hurt and has a monster year, driving in 150 runs while silencing his critics. Branyan cuts down on his strikeouts and makes people forget about Richie Sexson. The unheralded Diaz has a breakout season at and behind the plate. Thome, now 30, emerges as the clubhouse leader, and Alomar checks his ego at door. Lofton swipes 50 bases in his "walk" year.

    The Indians win 95 games, which is enough to reclaim the AL Central. Colon outduels Pedro Martinez twice in the divisional playoffs. In the ALCS, the Tribe solves the Yankees and advance to the World Series to face ... you guessed it, the upstart Florida Marlins. Nagy, pitching in relief, wins three games including the clincher, ending Cleveland's 53-year championship drought.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    With the new unbalanced schedule, the Indians get beat up by again by their divisional rivals (against whom the Tribe was 21-30 last year).

    Staff infection: Colon turns in a .500 season; Finley shows his age; Karsay is a five-inning pitcher. Burba and Woodard post ERAs above 5.00; Nagy and Wright spend most of year on the DL. Blair, Prieto and Jake Westbrook are inserted into the rotation.

    The table-setters -- Lofton, Vizquel and Alomar -- all on the wrong side of 33, fail to ignite the offense. Meanwhile, the fragile outfield -- Gonzalez, Lofton and Burks -- miss chunks of time with back, shoulder and knee injuries, respectively.

    Bottom Line
    The Indians have played .547 baseball in the Jacobs Field era. That's not going to end this season. Cleveland has revamped its offense enough to make up for the loss of Ramirez. Whether they have enough pitching to regain their division title is uncertain. But you can count on the Tribe playing meaningful games in September.



    CNNSI Copyright © 2001
    CNN/Sports Illustrated
    An AOL Time Warner Company.
    All Rights Reserved.

    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines.