As the Cleveland Indians begin spring training, the club will be looking for a short-term starting rotation replacement for Fausto Carmona. Newly acquired right-hander Kevin Slowey is among the candidates.
The Indians open training camp still reeling somewhat from their biggest off-season issue, the fallout from pitcher Fausto Carmona
's arrest for identity theft in the Dominican Republic.
Carmona's real name is Roberto Hernandez, and he's 31 years old, not 28, as was previously believed. He has been placed on the restricted list. He probably will miss spring training, meaning the Indians will have to replace him their rotation.
Finding a replacement for Carmona will be one of the priorities in spring training. The leading candidate is Kevin Slowey, acquired in a trade with Colorado the day after Carmona's arrest.
Other candidates include Jeanmar Gomez
, Zach McAllister
, and David Huff
The rest of the rotation is set. Derek Lowe
, acquired in a trade with Atlanta early in the offseason, will join holdovers Justin Masterson
, Ubaldo Jimenez
, and Josh Tomlin
in the rotation.
The Indians' strength should be the bullpen, anchored by closer Chris Perez
. It was one of the best bullpens in the American League last year, and all the key relievers are back.
The defense also should be improved, with the addition of first baseman Casey Kotchman
, signed as a free agent to a one-year contract. Indians' first basemen last season made 12 errors, which is one more than Kotchman has made in his eight-year major league career.
The biggest question mark for the Indians will be their offense, which was one of the poorest in the league last year. The Indians didn't get the big bat they had hoped to add during the winter, although Kotchman will be an upgrade over Matt LaPorta
at first base.
The Indians are counting on the offense getting a boost from the return to the lineup of some key players who were injured for most of the 2011 season because of injuries. That group includes Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner
Sizemore's club option for 2012 was declined by the Indians. After a brief fling as a free agent, Sizemore decided to re-sign with Cleveland, hoping to re-establish himself after three injury-plagued seasons.
The only position battle in spring training will be at third base, where Lonnie Chisenhall
and veteran defensive specialist Jack Hannahan
will compete for the starting job.
Chisenhall is viewed as the club's third baseman of the future, but he struggled at times defensively last year as a rookie.
Indians Notes & Quotes
OF Trevor Crowe, a former No. 1 pick, has been invited to the Indians' major league training camp as a non-roster player. Crowe, the 14th player taken overall in the 2005 June Draft, has never been able to get his career over the big league hump. He missed most of last year because of shoulder surgery. Crowe, 28, will compete for a spot as an extra outfielder.
LHP Kelvin De La Cruz was designated for assignment on Feb. 14 in order to make room on the 40-man roster for recently-signed 1B Casey Kotchman. De La Cruz last year was 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 23 games (16 starts) at Class AAA Columbus.
C Lou Marson goes to training camp as the likely backup to starting C Carlos Santana. Marson and Santana are the only catchers on the 40-man roster. The Indians, however, have invited four non-roster catchers to their major league camp. Marson is an above average defensive catcher, but the Indians would like to see a little more bat. Marson in 2011 batted only .230 overall, .191 vs. right-handed pitchers.
RHP Hector Ambriz will be in the major league training camp as a non-roster player. A Rule 5 Draft selection by the Indians, Ambriz was 0-2 with a 5.59 ERA in 34 relief appearances in 2010, then underwent Tommy John surgery in October of that year and missed all of the 2011 season. Ambriz will compete for a spot in the Indians' bullpen.
INF Jose Lopez could be a dark horse to win a spot on the opening day roster. Lopez is a non-roster invitee, but he has had some success at the major league level. He made the AL All-Star team while with Seattle in 2006, and had 25 home runs and 96 RBI for the Mariners in 2009. Lopez will compete for a utility job on the Indians' opening day roster.
By the Numbers: 5 – Number of ex-Indians who will be in spring training as a special advisor, special assistant, or guest instructor. They are Mike Hargrove, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Adam Everett, and Jason Bere.
Quote to Note: "We can't sell dreams to people." -- Manager Manny Acta, on the Indians' attempt to improve their roster during the off-season.