Inbox: Does Acta favor a stable lineup?
MLB.com's Castrovince answers Tribe fans' questions
While covering the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, I walked into the Westin workout room and found superagent Scott Boras doing situps.Man, this guy is as good as advertised. I asked him to give me a spot on a bench press of 130 pounds, and he negotiated me up to 160. The Tribe was quiet last week, but the Inbox questions kept coming. Let's see what was on your minds. I'm not too familiar with Manny Acta. Does he set a lineup and let it go, or does he experiment like Eric Wedge did on a daily basis? Wedge was too enamored with the super-utility players.
-- Michael F., Galloway, Ohio All managers have to work with what they've got. Acta is inheriting a club that, after much trial and error, is pretty much set at shortstop (Asdrubal Cabrera), third base (Jhonny Peralta), left field (Michael Brantley), center field (Grady Sizemore) and right field (Shin-Soo Choo). Behind the plate, Lou Marson projects as the regular, with Wyatt Toregas backing him up. The only question at first base is Matt LaPorta's health. At second base, Luis Valbuena will likely be protected against left-handed pitchers. And Travis Hafner should be physically capable of playing on more of an everyday basis. So, with all that said, the lineups of 2010 have a chance to be more static than the lineups of '09, and it's certainly Acta's intent to see that through. Wedge didn't have a set lineup at all last season, and that's in part a function of what he was given to work with and in part a function of what became an obsession with versatility. It was clear in Spring Training last year that the Indians would have a lot of moving parts in their lineup, but Wedge also made some strange decisions, most notably by having Ryan Garko play the outfield on occasion. Has Acta given any indication on where he thinks Sizemore fits in the lineup?
-- Kevin H., Westminster, Md. Unless something drastic changes, Sizemore will be leading off in Acta's Opening Day lineup. Brantley really sparked the top of the lineup after his September promotion to the big leagues, reaching base safely in 25 of 28 games, stealing a few bags and coming up with some big hits. He gave the Indians every reason to believe he can one day fill that leadoff role full-time, perhaps by the end of the 2010 season. But for now, with Brantley likely to go through some inevitable rookie-year adjustments, Acta feels it's best to put him in a low-pressure spot at the outset. Any speculation on who we're going to get for Kelly Shoppach?
-- Kevin K., Independence, Ohio Though the Indians won't confirm who they have to choose from on or before the Dec. 20 deadline, I'm hearing it will be one of two right-handed pitchers -- Mitch Talbot or Joseph Cruz.
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Talbot is 26 and made his Major League debut with the Rays in '08, making three appearances and posting an 11.17 ERA. Shoulder and elbow problems limited him to 15 total starts in the Minors this past season, including 10 at Triple-A Durham. He finished off the year by making six starts in the Arizona Fall League. Cruz is 21 and spent '09 at Class A Bowling Green, where he went 5-8 with a 4.04 ERA in 21 starts, striking out 99 and walking 26 in 98 innings of work. Did the Indians have to cover all of Jake Westbrook's contract for his injury-plagued '08 and '09 seasons? I remember hearing something about the Tribe having insurance policies on their high-investment players.
-- Nathan H., Stevensville, Ontario Without giving specifics, Mark Shapiro told me the Indians received "meaningful" relief from Westbrook's 2009 contract, but obviously not enough to significantly adjust the Tribe's economic picture. If Westbrook is unable to go at the start of '10, more financial relief would be in order. Who is going to play first base? I hope it's not Andy Marte. We need someone with power.
-- Ken M., Spring Lake, Mich. Well, it could be Marte, if LaPorta isn't ready for the start of the regular season. Or perhaps, in that scenario, the Indians would give reigning International League batting champ Jordan Brown his first opportunity in the big leagues. By and large, though, the expectation is that LaPorta will be the Tribe's regular at first. In the last two months of '09, Marte didn't exactly convince the Indians he's ready for an everyday opportunity at this level. He remains out of Minor League options and will have to make the team out of Spring Training camp, or else be exposed to the waiver wire again. For the record, Marte is currently nursing a strained oblique, so he's not active in the Dominican Winter League. I think the Indians passed on a rare coaching gem in Torey Lovullo and they are probably going to regret letting him go the Red Sox. I don't think they ever got a chance to go as deep into the interview process as they wanted to. Did the Tribe jump the gun sooner than they wanted to because of Acta's Houston candidacy?
-- Lisa F., Ashtabula, Ohio While the Houston situation did speed up the Indians' timetable on making this hire, the odds were already stacked against Lovullo. From the beginning of the interview process, it was pretty well-established within the front office that an outside perspective was needed, so an in-house candidate like Lovullo was not expected to get the position. To Lovullo's credit, however, he did impress the Indians enough during his phone interview to be granted an in-person interview in Cleveland. And when Lovullo was passed over not just for the managing gig but also a position on Acta's staff, the writing was on the wall for him to leave. Acta said he was impressed with Lovullo when he interviewed him for a coaching spot. But the job Lovullo would have been best-suited for -- third-base and infield coach -- was the only one filled by a guy with no previous career ties to the Tribe, Steve Smith. Lovullo certainly has the skills to be a Major League manager someday. Could you print quotes from Shapiro or Paul Dolan in which, after the trades of Lee and Martinez, one of them said they could have kept both of them but that would have meant they would go into the offseason with no ability to add any players? This would seem to imply that since they traded them both and saved a lot of money, they would be able to be active and add pitching. Would they care to explain?
-- Steve, Wooster, Ohio It appears you've misinterpreted the implications of those trades. The Indians made them not to free up payroll for the construction of the 2010 club, but to use their most valuable trade commodities to bring in a haul of prospects for the future and, in the process, save money to offset the financial losses brought on by dismal attendance figures. The Indians felt they could have kept Lee and Martinez and paid their 2010 contracts, but they would have lost both in free agency at season's end and had glaring holes in their farm system.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.