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Well, maybe not this year. Even before the tragedy, the Indians' pitching was weak; it hasn't developed as quickly as the lineup has. The reality is Cleveland is likely to finish closer to last place than first.
The accident dealt a massive blow to the rebuilding effort, not only because Olin (8-5, 29 saves, 2.34 ERA last year) was the Indians' closer, but also because he exemplified the success of Cleveland's plan. Though he had marginal stuff and a sidearm delivery—no one thought he would make it past Triple A—Olin never quit. Hargrove called him Mr. Rogers because he was so upbeat. Olin was the p.r. department's go-to guy when it came to appearances, interviews, whatever.
Crews, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season, broke three ribs early in spring training but was going to make the team as a middle reliever. Ojeda, who was released from the hospital on March 25 and is expected to return to the team, was being counted on as the No. 2 starter.
With no obvious candidate on hand to replace Olin, the Indians will operate a bullpen-by-committee, filling Olin's role on a game-by-game basis. "When you lose an Olin and a Crews, with a young club, that's a major concern," says Hart. "But, no excuses. We're taking the high road. This tragedy is going to bring us closer."
The bullpen was already the closest group, even before the accident. Last year Olin, Power, Derek Lilliquist, Eric Plunk and Kevin Wickander were inseparable. They had rituals, like walking to the pen together before every game and levying a $5 fine on any member of the group who didn't make the walk with the rest of them. After Olin's death, his wife, Patti, gave some of her husband's personal items and baseball equipment to his bullpen mates. Wickander got Olin's watch. Power got his leather belt.
"I used to tell Stevie to use an elastic belt, like mine, because it stretches," Power says. "Stevie wouldn't. He told me, 'I wore this belt when I broke in. I'll always wear this belt.' Well, that baby is mine now. I'll always wear that belt."
It will stay in the family.