Tribe Wants Guys to Step it Up, Roster Taking Shape.

The ideal spring training record for a baseball team is .500. 

That way, hopes don’t get too high for the fans and the management, but it does keep optimism for a good season alive.

Nor is the fan base depressed because the team can’t even win in exhibition play. 

Yes, winning half your spring training games is the way to go.

Right now, the Cleveland Indians are sitting at 5-10.  Fans are still optimistic because of last year’s tremendous start, but they have to be nervous about the performance of some key players. 

It appears the management may be a little unsettled too.

Manny Acta said over the weekend that it is time for Ubaldo Jimenez to get some hitters out.  The big right-hander has struggled in pretty much every start in Arizona, and as stated previously, he is the biggest key to the Indians’ success.

Without his success, the Tribe’s starting rotation is a little shaky.  Especially with Josh Tomlin currently struggling after finishing last season with a sore elbow.

That means the rotation would only have Justin Masterson, who has one good season under his belt, and veteran Derek Lowe, who is 39 years old and lost 17 games last year.

With the Indians’ lack of pop in the lineup, if the starting pitching isn’t good, it will be a loooong season.

That isn’t to say Jimenez can’t turn it around when the regular season starts.  In 2009, Cliff Lee got hammered in spring training and in his first regular season start as well (vs. Texas) before having a good year.

That doesn’t mean Acta will be any more relieved unless the pitcher GM Chris Antonetti gave up two prime pitching prospects for, starts showing more in Goodyear.

In the bullpen, there are two open spots, but nobody has taken the bull by the horns.  Dan Wheeler was thought to have a leg up on one spot, but he’s allowed eight earned runs in six innings, allowing 12 hits.  He did throw a scoreless inning Monday against the Dodgers, so perhaps he’s turned the corner. 

Lefty Nick Hagadone could get one spot if he can throw strikes.  He’s only given up one run in seven frames with no walks, but has been behind in the count a lot.  Invitee Jeremy Accardo (5 IP, 1 ER) and rookie righty C.C. Lee (6 IP, 2 ER, 6 SO) have been impressive too.  Veteran Chris Ray has been tattooed and probably pitched himself off the team. 

As for the hitters, invitee Jose Lopez (as predicted) looks like he will make the final 25 man roster with a fine spring going 10 for 24 with 2 HR.  Assuming Shelly Duncan wins the LF job, the extra men on the bench will be Lopez, C Lou Marson, INF/OF Jason Donald, and either Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, or Russ Canzler.

Cunningham and Spilborghs can play CF which is a plus, although the latter has struggled at the plate away from Coors Field, hitting just .129 away from home last year.  Cunningham is younger which should give him an edge, although the Indians seem to love veterans as bench players. 

Canzler may be the best hitter out of the three, but the Tribe seems to value defense more than a right-handed bat which may have some pop. 

This is curious because Cleveland doesn’t appear to be a real good defensive team. 

Manny Acta said that there is no doubt Canzler will rake again if sent back to Columbus, but it’s hard to see him making the team.  Plus, he has options left, so there is no threat of losing him.  Cunningham is out of options, and Spilborghs is a spring invitee.

Still, on a team needing offense, Canzler’s hitting .355 this spring, while the other two are close to the .200 mark in of course, limited at bats.

Those are the players to keep an eye on with just two weeks before the start of the regular season.  No doubt, the front office is hoping some of these players eliminate any doubts they have.

KM

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