The Cleveland Indians opened the 2013 season at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, home of the Blue Jays. Check out a photo gallery from the Tribe's second game of the season there.
On Thursday, March 21, the Cleveland Indians visited the beautiful Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for a Cactus League exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On Wednesday, March 20, the Cleveland Indians visited the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona for a Cactus League exhibition game.
(GOODYEAR, Ariz.) -- It has been almost a week since I reported to spring training to bring Total Tribe Coverage back to Northeast Ohio and while that might not seem like a long time, it's definitely enough to ponder a few things regarding the Cleveland Indians.
Workouts are now in full force for the Tribe, but let me give you a run-down on a few things before we start looking ahead to Cactus League exhibition games.
Here are five quick thoughts:
1. Excitement is obvious: For weeks I've been saying the Indians did more this offseason alone than the previous four combined. Yes, I'm probably exaggerating a little bit, but not that much. This week there has been a buzz in the Tribe clubhouse here in Goodyear about the upcoming season. Numerous players I have already spoken with continue to talk about the hiring of manager Terry Francona and free agent signings like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and even Mark Reynolds. It is a consensus among players, when the front office shows that it wants to win by being agressive in an offseason like the Indians have this year, it definitely rubs off on the players. For instance, not making any significant moves at the MLB trade deadline a year ago was followed up by a historically bad month of August that derailed the Tribe from contention and got Manny Acta fired. The front office got a lot done this offseason; and now the players on the club are ready to show they are worth the investment.
2. Francona vs. Acta: It is not fair to compare managers when one of them owns two World Series rings and the other owns a 372-518 MLB managerial record. However, it is already evident how different "Tito" is from "Manny"...yes, five days in. I got along great with Acta and still keep in touch with him to this day, however there was clearly a disconnect between him and his players. In four days I have seen Francona in the clubhouse at least three and that is about three more than Acta in the past three seasons combined. Whether that is right or wrong is not for me to judge, but it does help indicate how much different these two men are. The bottom line is, Acta kept to himself while Francona is more of a "players manager." Both styles can work, but a younger team like the Indians may benefit more from a manager who is more hands-on and makes them believe he has their back.
Nick Camino watches closely as Indians relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano throws a bullpen session at the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. (Photo courtesy of MLB.com)
3. Debbie Downer: I hope I'm not being too negative here, but let's not start printing MLB Playoff tickets just yet. I think the Indians have had a tremendous offseason and have certainly addressed a lot of their needs. An aggressive three-team trade, free agent signings of Swisher and Bourn, as well as hiring Francona should give Tribe fans hope for this upcoming season. Bringing a ton of pieces back to a bullpen that served as a club strength and still includes Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith should make fans feel confident. But if "Debbie Downer" mode was going to creep out of me for one minute, I would still tell you I have some concerns about the starting rotation. Francona admitted there are a lot of question marks surrounding the starting five and the more you have the more chances there are that it could struggle. If Justin Masterson comes back strong, if Ubaldo Jimenez fixes his mechanics, if 32-year-old Brett Myers can convert back to being a starter after pitching out of the White Sox bullpen a year ago and if a plethora of candidates can emerge and pitch well, then the Indians could have a lot of success. But even the most optimistic Tribe fan in the world should understand that is a lot of "ifs" for anybody's liking.
4. Outfield: The Indians outfield may not have the power stick you would like to see, but defensively it may very well be the best in MLB. Francona has already said he has three legitimate center fielders playing in the outfield. With Michael Bourn set to be the club's center fielder, Michael Brantley will take over in left field, while Drew Stubbs will be the man in right field taking over for Shin-Soo Choo. All three players boast speed and tremendous glove work that every pitcher on the Tribe's staff will likely come to appreciate at some point. Power will need to come from the infield with this club. Whether it is Swisher, Reynolds, Santana, Kipnis, Cabrera or whoever, the combination of Bourn, Brantley and Stubbs hit a combined 29 HRs last season. The Tribe lacked power a year ago, I don't think that will be the case this season...but just don't expect it to come from an athletic outfield.
5. Giambi & Dice-K: Throughout spring training I have been asked a lot about two free agent signings. 1B/DH Jason Giambi and RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka. It is not every year there is so much interest in two players who happen to be on Minor League contracts, but I obviously understand. It does not seem that long ago that Giambi was the MVP and Dice-K took Boston by storm. LHP Scott Kazmir and RHPs Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco will challenge Dice-K for the final spot in the rotation, but don't be surprised if he comes out of the competition with a starting job. As for Giambi, at the age of 42 he has been looking for a part-time DH role with an American League club and has always wanted to play for Francona. That combination alone could land him on the Indians Opening Day roster in Toronto.
One final note: I have been asked a lot about single game tickets. They go on sale Feb. 25. SAVE THE DATE!
- Nick Camino