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Indians Exceed Expectations In 2011, Looking to compete with Detroit for AL Central in 12′
Posted By Eric Kastner On Mar 28 2012 @ 9:14 pm In Cleveland Indians | No Comments
Outlook: Cleveland is coming off an (80-82) record from a year ago, in which they held the central division lead for over two months to start the season. Solid pitching accounted for most of those wins as the tribe seemed to show enough promise for Cleveland fans to remain optimistic heading into next Thursday’s home opener.
[CF] Michael Brantley
[SS] Asdrubal Cabrera
[RF] Shin-Soo Choo
[C ] Carlos Santana
[1B] Casey Kotchman
[2B] Jason Kipnis
[LF] Shelly Duncan
[3B] Jack Hanahan
Notes: With Grady Sizemore sidelined due to injury once again, Michael Brantley gets the nod as the starting center fielder and lead-off man. Take it for what it’s worth, but news out of tribe camp was that Asdrubal Cabrera came in overweight. This is the last thing Tribe fans want to hear, as Cabrera was the teams MVP a year ago. The Indians failed to get a solid middle of the order hitter in the off-season, so they will rely on Choo, Santana and Hafner at those regards. Santana, who will be in his second full season at the major league level, is looked upon as the tribes main cog in the middle of the order. Santana competed in 155 of the 162 games last year for the tribe and will look to increase his homer (27) and RBI (79) total from a year ago. Finally, Shelly Duncan leads the Indians with 5 home runs this preseason, and could add some fireworks at the bottom of the order.
No. 1 Justin Masterson [RHP]
No. 2 Ubaldo Jimenez [RHP]
No. 3 Josh Tomlin [RHP]
No. 4 Derek Lowe [RHP]
No.5 Jeanmar Gomez [RHP]
Notes: Masterson and Tomlin are coming off there first full major league season. Both of the right-handed pitchers proved they belonged in the majors, especially Masterson who finished with a team leading 3.21 (ERA). The question is, will they fall in a sophomore slump? This rotation still has a lot of question marks, especially with 38 year old Derek Lowe. Lowe, hasn’t won a game on the mound since August, 31st in 2011 after he finished his final month of September at (0-5). Jenmar Gomez is battling with the experienced Kevin Slowey for the #5 spot, but it appears after a strong spring that Jeanmar will get the nod. Finally, will Ubaldo live up to all the hype? Jimenez wasn’t able to put together much of a 2011 campaign due to an early injury he suffered with Colorado. However, he’s healthy this season and the Indians need him more than ever after hearing Alex White and Drew Pomeranz will be pitching for the Rockies major league club to start the year.
So, give me a reason to be optimistic: Well, Cleveland does return all key members of there “Bullpen Mafia”. The bullpen was one of the Indians biggest surprises last season. Closer, Chris Perez, and relievers Vinny Pestano, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez, and Frank Herrmann look to be the main names in the bullpen.
PREDICTIONS: Cleveland’s biggest problem has been beating teams within their own division. This wasn’t just a problem in 2011, but a problem that has continued to haunt the Indians in the past half-decade. Until Cleveland can prove to me that they can beat Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Detroit’s solid pitching staff, then I will continue to pick the Tigers to take the division crown. However, look for the Indians to make a playoff push with the additional wildcard spot.
Cleveland will open the season at home against Toronto and Chicago in a six game homestand, before playing there next 9 on the road, including a 6 game west coast trip that will eat up most of the month of April
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