(GOODYEAR, Ariz.) – Thursday afternoon spring training finally gets underway.
Yes, pitchers and catchers reported to the Cleveland Indians Player Development Complex as early as Tuesday, but official workouts begin on Thursday.
Up until now, some pitchers have thrown bullpen sessions and even some position players have been spotted. Now that initial check-ins and physicals are over with, one-on-one meetings will commence with each individual player/pitcher along with general manager Chris Antonetti and skipper Terry Francona.
Pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout Thursday and they will eventually be joined by position players on Sunday. Position players will report Thursday, take physicals Friday and then the full squad gets together for their first official workout on Sunday.
Now that you’re up to date on this week’s spring camp schedule, here are five things I’ll be looking at over the next seven weeks:
1. Rotation questions: It was the top concern heading into the 2013 season and once again it remains a big question mark heading into the 2014 campaign. The bottom line is: pitchers stepped up last season for the Tribe. The problem now is: two of them are gone in RHP Ubaldo Jimenez and LHP Scott Kazmir. It is fair to expect RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Corey Kluber and RHP Zach McAllister to improve on their season’s from a year ago, however the questions begin surfacing when you look at the young arms of guys like RHP Danny Salazar, RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Trevor Bauer and RHP Josh Tomlin. Can Salazar have success over the course of an entire 162-game season? Can Carrasco and Bauer sync up their physical tools with their mental mind-set? Will Tomlin bounce back over an entire season after Tommy John surgery? Those are all fair questions…they may very well begin being answered once spring training gets rolling.
Agility fields being watered at the Tribe's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. (Photo courtesy Nick Camino)
2. Saving the bullpen: For the last three years Tribe fans have gotten used to seeing RHP Joe Smith in the seventh inning, RHP Vinnie Pestano in the eighth inning and RHP Chris Perez in the ninth frame. The Indians go into spring training this year without both Smith (signed with Angels) and Perez (signed with Dodgers), while Pestano is coming off the worst season of his big league career. Even if Pestano bounces back, there are still a ton of question marks to fill in that bullpen. To be fair, a lot of other clubs throughout Major League Baseball are having the same problem. Here are some names I’ll be focused on throughout camp when it comes to the big league club: RHP Cody Allen, RHP Bryan Shaw, LHP Nick Hagadone, LHP Josh Outman, RHP Matt Capps, LHP Mark Rzepczynski, RHP Blake Wood, RHP Chen-Chang Lee, RHP John Axford and RHP Frank Herrmann.
3. Santana’s transition: I’m not ready to say there is a full-blown third base competition between Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall this spring, but we may know early on just how serious the Indians are about possibly putting Santana at the hot corner. It sounds like Santana will begin spring training getting reps behind the plate at catcher, but then the transition over to third base will begin. The Indians desperately want to keep Santana’s bat in the lineup every day and if that means taking some play-time away from Chisenhall who is coming off a difficult 2013 season, then the Indians will do just that. The main question is: Can Santana play at third base a majority of the season? If he can defensively, we will probably see him there.
The Cleveland Indians Player Development Complex in Goodyear, Ariz. (Photo courtesy Nick Camino)
4. Improved depth: No need for many names here, but I’ve always been concerned about the Cleveland Indians depth; sspecially over the last few years. However, this year at numerous positions and pitching spots there are individuals with big league experience. In previous seasons, the Tribe was forced to put faith in young kids that simply didn’t have much big league experience. This year is different…guys fighting for spots on the 25-man roster include (all former big leaguers): 1B/OF Bryan LaHair, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Nyjer Morgan, RHP Matt Capps, RHP Scott Atchison, OF Matt Carson and INF Jose Ramirez.
5. Work-like atmosphere: One of the first things I noticed a year ago at this time was the difference in the atmosphere among the players and pitchers in camp. From laid-back to workman-like, that was the difference between the 2013 Cleveland Indians that won 92 games and went to the MLB Playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the 2012 Tribe which fell on its face after a hot start eventually costing former manager Manny Acta his job. Guys putting in extra work after practice, lifting weights late into the afternoon and players taking more accountability was evident under new skipper Terry Francona and his coaching staff. Will that transfer into this spring? Only time will tell.
- Nick Camino