5 Cleveland Indians Storylines to Follow During Spring Training
5 Cleveland Indians Storylines for Spring Training
In 2013, the Cleveland Indians exceeded expectations, making a dazzling run into the October postseason. Although the team lost in the Wild Card Game at home, 92 wins following a 68-win 2012 season should still be considered a good season. Of course, much of this improvement can be attributed to bringing in manager Terry Francona, who has done an excellent job at every stop.
Looking ahead to 2014, the Indians will be looking to prove that last season was not a one-time deal but that the team is here to stay at the top. The Detroit Tigers, who reached the ALCS last season, will probably start as the title favorites in the AL Central again this season, but the Indians will be looking to surprise the baseball world once again. The Indians lack the star power to endear most baseball fans, but what the Indians may lack in individual players is definitely made up in team play, smart coaching and in-game managing.
The Indians certainly have something to look forward to in the future, especially with a very young starting rotation led by Justin Masterson. Those young guns were the key to the Indians' success late in the season, and the team's front office have a lot of faith in those guys, choosing not to bring back veteran starters Scott Kazmir or Ubaldo Jimenez.
Here are five storylines to follow as the team heads into Spring Training.
5. What Position Will Carlos Santana Play?
While Carlos Santana has been a mainstay in the offensive lineup for the Indians, his defense has left something to be desired. At catcher, he only caught 18 percent of base runners last season, and the Indians' pitching staff clearly performed better when he wasn't behind the plate. Santana played third base in winter ball, but still disappointed defensively at the new position. The team will need to find a position for Santana to play this Spring Training whether it's at catcher, third base or designated hitter.
4. Who Will Be the Catcher?
Assuming that Santana won't be the catcher next season, the likely player to be his replacement would be Yan Gomes, who played in limited action at catcher. He would be a significant upgrade defensively over Santana and should be able to hold his own offensively.
3. How Will the Young Starters Hold Up?
The Indians found two big-time young starters last season in Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar, who brought the Indians to the postseason with a magnificent run of games throughout September. Both guys throw some nasty stuff, and there should be no reason for regression this year given that both were not primary starters for the team until late in the season.
2. Who Will Be the Closer?
The Indians will need to find a closer this Spring Training since Chris Perez was released following an ineffective season. John Axford, who was signed following a good postseason for the St. Louis Cardinals, has previous closer experience but will need to regain past form. Other potential candidates for the job include Brian Shaw, Cody Allen and Vinny Pestano.
1. Who Will Be the no. 5 Starter?
The Indians have a rotation spot to fill. Carlos Carrasco will likely enter Spring Training as the favorite, but former first-round pick Trevor Bauer might get a shot if he can shake off the struggles he's had throughout his entire young career. The team could also choose to sign a free agent to serve as a veteran presence for the otherwise young rotation.