Inbox: Should Tribe fans be optimistic?
Beat reporter Anthony Castrovince answers fans' questions
I am imagining great confusion outside of Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Super Bowl Sunday:Guy No. 1: Did you hear Who's playing at halftime? Guy No. 2: No, I didn't. Who? Guy No. 1: Yes. Guy No. 2: Yes? I hope they play "Roundabout." Guy No. 1: I wouldn't expect them to play that. Guy No. 2:Them? They broke up years ago. Hopefully our dialogue in this edition of the Indians Inbox will be a bit easier to decipher. How in the world is this team going to compete in the American League, in view of the moves it has made during the offseason? Let's take a recap: We hire Manny Acta, the former manager of the Nationals. We acquire Brian Bixler, Mark Grudzielanek, Austin Kearns, Shelley Duncan and Mike Redmond. We don't have an ace pitcher. We don't have a cleanup hitter. We don't have a real No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher. Our best young hitter, Matt LaPorta, is hurt. And we are signing utility players approaching 40 years old. Should Tribe fans be anything but depressed about the upcoming season?
-- Joseph D., New York Anybody surprised by the inactivity this offseason clearly wasn't paying attention to what was going on at the Trade Deadline last year. This is a rebuilding season in every sense, as a new coaching staff will be working with a young and developing unit. Heck, even the manager is developing, as his career .385 winning percentage indicates. The Indians lost 97 games last year, and a good portion of those losses came with reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and All-Star catcher Victor Martinez still around. Contention in 2010 is clearly not a serious expectation, and adding high-priced free agents to the mix would have run counter to the concept. If the Indians were going to do that, they wouldn't have traded away the affordable contracts of Lee and Martinez in the first place.
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-- Raul R., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Any time a manager has a past working relationship with a player and knows what he can expect, that goes a long way. Rivera has an out clause in his contract that allows him to leave the organization if he's not on the active roster by May 15. Before he hit a rough patch in '09, Rivera was a durable and fairly dependable reliever in the Nationals' bullpen from 2006-08. And as you mentioned, Raul, his numbers in winter ball (2.29 ERA and 11 saves in 19 appearances) were strong. I would expect Acta to give Rivera a look at the Major League level at some point in the first six weeks of the 2010 season. I'd also keep an eye out for Jason Grilli, another non-roster reliever coming to camp. Now that the Twins have signed Jim Thome to a $1.5 million contract, I'm wondering if the Indians' front office gave any thought to signing him? Granted, you're not going to be getting an everyday player, but can't Mark Shapiro think of the fans for once and let Thome finish his career in Cleveland?
-- Garth L., Columbus, Ohio The Indians say they gave thought to this, but I can't imagine that thought lasting more than a few seconds. Aside from a little marketing buzz, Thome would have made absolutely no sense for this team. Forget for a moment that they have very little money to spend in free agency (though even a $1.5 million contract would have taken up the bulk of their winter expenditures). The Indians already have a left-handed-hitting DH in Travis Hafner. He's eating up more than one-sixth of the payroll for 2010, and this figures to be his first healthy season in three years. While I know for a fact that Thome would love to finish his career here, the situation has to make at least a modicum of sense for the Tribe, and that's simply not the case here, at present. I just read the story about Kenny Lofton being inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame. As I looked down the list, I noticed Gaylord Perry is not on it. Any insight, as I believe his Indians credentials exceed many that are on that list?
-- Steve J., Greensboro, N.C. I was told Perry received a number of votes from the panel that selected the 2010 class, but Lofton edged him. It could be that the Indians wanted Lofton to have his moment alone. I would be surprised if Perry isn't inducted next year, as he's probably the most obvious omission from the list of Indians Hall of Famers. He was definitely on my ballot. I noticed in a recent post regarding Indians catchers that Matt McBride wasn't mentioned. He's doing as well as some of the catchers mentioned in the article.
-- Dean S., Goshen, Ind. The Indians transitioned McBride from catching to an outfield/first base utility role at the Double-A level last season. He didn't catch a single game. With the Reds joining the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., this year, how do they split the Spring Training facilities? Are there separate clubhouses, weight rooms, and the like? Do they have to split field time?
-- Jeff H., Columbus, Ohio The Reds have a separate facility that includes their clubhouse, practice fields, batting cages, etc. The only thing that is shared is the main ballpark, where the Cactus League games take place. The Tribe's facility is about a mile from Goodyear Ballpark, while the Reds' facility is about two miles away. Because they share the ballpark, the Indians and Reds each have three road games that are, essentially, home games. Can you update us on situation regarding Shin Soo Choo and his military obligation?
-- Brian R., Solon, Ohio Though Choo turns 28 in July and is obligated to serve two years in the South Korean military before the age of 30, the Indians continue to consider this a non-issue. There are several avenues in which Choo could avoid that obligation. The most likely is that he'd establish residency, not citizenship, in the United States. Another, more difficult scenario: If the Indians allow Choo to participate in the 2010 Asian Games in November and he helps South Korea win the gold medal in baseball, his obligation would be waived by his country. What will be the Inbox theme for 2010? I'll throw my hat into the ring and go with "The Hangover." How can anyone deny that?
-- Anthony C., Melrose Park, Ill. Though "The Hangover" is already the working title for NFL Films' documentary of the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers team that went from Super Bowl triumph to losing to the Browns in a matter of months, I'm willing to give it consideration as an Inbox theme. Any other submissions out there? How is LaPorta doing after his surgeries? Can we expect him to start at first base for the season opener? The last thing I want to see is Andy Marte in an Indians uniform.
-- Rob, Columbus The reports on LaPorta's recovery have been nothing but positive, to this point. But I would temper expectations for him to be on the Opening Day roster until we see how he gets through the rigors of Spring Training camp. Remember that the original prognosis for LaPorta's recovery from the October procedures was four to six months. If he has even the slightest setback, the Indians don't have much incentive to push him, so it's possible he could fall toward the back end of that prognosis. We'll see. Do you think that Jeremy Sowers could switch to the bullpen and be effective? It would seem to me that he could, because he is normally really good the first and second time through the lineup, but the third time through is when hitters start roughing him up. I think he would be a great long reliever. What do you think?
-- Kenny O., St. Marys, Ohio I'd agree that if Sowers has a future in relief, it's long relief, as he doesn't possess the raw stuff to be a dominant late-inning reliever. He could be one of those guys that mops up the mess when the starter has a rough showing. Yet while such a role might benefit an Indians team with a shaky starting staff, it's not exactly a position of great stability. So it would certainly behoove Sowers to do whatever conditioning or tweaking it takes to last deeper into ballgames and project as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Sowers is out of Minor League options, so this spring appears to be his last chance to stick with the Tribe. And finally ... What was the big deal with LaPorta? He was supposed to be great, but it seems that he was a bust like Tim Couch. Who can we get for him?
-- Jordan W., Akron Great question, Jordan. I'd answer, but I've got to go scold my unemployed, 5-year-old niece for being a failure in life.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.