The big question, of course, is whether or not he will revert to
the old Tito. The Indians do not expect him to hit .363 again, but neither do they expect him to fall to .233. Halfway between would be just fine.
?CONFUSION OF CATCHERS
The Cleveland bench is not strong, except in catchers. Russ Nixon, who bounced like a ping-pong ball between Cleveland and Boston this spring, is a good left-handed hitter despite his .240 average last year. But Nixon is weak defensively—and he may still wind up in Boston, or elsewhere. Ed Fitz Gerald has 13 seasons of major league experience, but he is almost 36 and never was a strong hitter. Young John Romano, a second-stringer on the White Sox last year, could develop into the team's best catcher on his hitting alone.
The rest of the bench consists of people like Norm Cash, George Strickland and Gene Leek. Both Cash and Leek lack experience. Strickland can be counted on to fill in the infield in case of an injury.
?TROUBLE ON THE HILL
It is pitching which is Cleveland's greatest weakness. To get his good infield, Lane has had to trade pitchers. Since he came to Cleveland the pitchers who have departed could staff an All-Star team. Early Wynn, Bud Daley, Don Mossi, Hoyt Wilhelm and Cal McLish are the five best. Last year they totaled 89 victories among them. They are gone, however, and it is up to the likes of Gary Bell, Jim Perry, Jim Grant and Herb Score to carry the season. Score, of course, was great before his eye was injured in 1957. Since then he has had a succession of arm ailments and has not regained the winning way. This spring he looked good under the guidance of Ted Wilks, the old Cardinal pitcher, but then he developed an ear infection. Nothing serious, but the kind of problem Score seems continuously dogged by. Bell, 23, Grant and Perry, both 24, can all throw "hard and each had a winning season last year. Bell was 16-11, Grant 10-7 and Perry 12-10. Help is also expected from Bobby Locke, who split last season between Cleveland and San Diego.
?BUT WHO COMES NEXT?
But after them there is a sharp decline. Old Ernie Johnson and Leo Kiely, late of Boston, are counted on for relief, but don't count too hard. Jack Harshman, who pitched for three American League teams last season, will be used in spot starts. Even Bob Lemon, now almost 40, was pitching in exhibition games this spring, seeing if he couldn't regain the magic.
Cleveland is optimistic about its rookie pitchers—no one in particular, but all of them generally. Bell and Grant were rookies in 1958, and Perry last year, so perhaps there will be one or two good ones this season, too—maybe lefty Carl Mathias or righty Carl Thomas.
It is on this uncertain pitching staff that the fate of the 1960 Indians depends. The infield and outfield are pennant-winning caliber. The bench is not strong but probably sufficient. But Frank Lane may find that in trading for the fine team he now has, he has left himself too many boy pitchers for a man's game.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]