03/28/08 10:00 AM ET
Indians Opening Day outlook
Focusing on task at hand, Tribe expects dogfight with Detroit
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
Unlike the Tribe's playoff teams in the 1990s, this club is built on a deep and potent pitching staff, not a juggernaut offense. With two 19-game winners (C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona) fronting the rotation and everybody back from one of the big leagues' best bullpens in '07, the Indians are difficult to match up with.
Projected starting lineup
|1. CF Grady Sizemore|
|2. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera|
|3. DH Travis Hafner|
|4. C Victor Martinez|
|5. SS Jhonny Peralta|
|6. 1B Ryan Garko|
|7. LF David Dellucci|
|8. RF Franklin Gutierrez|
|9. 3B Casey Blake|
|1. LHP C.C. Sabathia|
|2. RHP Fausto Carmona|
|3. RHP Jake Westbrook|
|4. RHP Paul Byrd|
|5. LHP Cliff Lee|
|Closer: RHP Joe Borowski|
|Setup: RHP Rafael Betancourt|
|Setup: LHP Rafael Perez|
|Middle: RHP Masa Kobayashi|
|Middle: RHP Jensen Lewis|
|Middle: LHP Craig Breslow|
The left-field platoon of David Dellucci and Jason Michaels was good for a combined .254 average, 11 homers and 59 RBIs last season, with Dellucci missing most of the year with a torn left hamstring. Combine that with the youth of Franklin Gutierrez, entering his first full season, in right, and the production from the corner-outfield spots is a potential concern.
You'll know they're rollin' if...
Hafner is back to his '06 form, driving the ball with consistency and changing the complexion of the middle of the order. And if the bullpen, which has unraveled some seasons past, is gelling as well as it did last year, with Joe Borowski closing the door in the ninth, all should be well for this team.
You'll know they're in trouble if...
Sabathia, Carmona and setup man Rafael Betancourt show signs of fatigue from their career-high innings totals of '07, Pronk continues to get flustered by the infield shift and Victor Martinez can't carry the lineup on his own.
Pay particular attention to what transpires in consecutive two-game series against the Red Sox and Tigers at Progressive Field on April 14-17. If an early season litmus test exists, this toe-warmer with two of the AL's elite clubs is it.
In addition to the usual Showdown of Ohio against the Reds, the Indians will face foes from the National League West this season. That includes a June trip to Colorado -- the trip the Indians had hoped to make last October -- as well as games against the Dodgers, Padres and Giants. In 2005, an 11-1 record against the NL West helped vault the Tribe into playoff contention, but the division has certainly improved since then.
The Bottom Line
The Tigers made the splashier headlines this offseason, no doubt, but the Indians' depth of talent, particularly in the pitching department, can't be overlooked.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.