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2012 MLB Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Addressing the Holes

The Indians wasted very little time in adding pitching this off-season, acquiring sinkerballer Derek Lowe from the Braves in a salary-dump deal. Combined with Masterson and Jimenez, Lowe figures to provide Cleveland infielders with a busy season of ground balls. He hasn’t pitched in the AL since 2004 as a member of the Red Sox, but even at age 38, Lowe is a good bet to provide a solid upgrade to the starting rotation.

The Indians had a decision to make regarding Sizemore and a $9 million club option. They declined, making Sizemore a free agent, but the came to terms on a one-year pact to stay together. The former star centerfielder might have been an ideal change-of-scenery guy for another club, but elected to stay home in Cleveland.

It hasn’t gone well so far for a guy that has missed more games than he’s played in over the past few seasons. Sizemore injured his back just days before camp opened for the Tribe and had to undergo surgery. He is expected out until at least May.

The Indians also added right hander Kevin Slowey in a trade after the Carmona incident put his season in doubt. Slowey will compete for the fifth starter’s job.

The biggest area of need for the Tribe was on offense and while they didn’t make splashy moves, the ones they did make could yield surprising results. International League MVP Russ Canzler was acquired from the Rays to at least compete with perennial underachiever Matt LaPorta at first base. Late in the winter, Cleveland again turned to the Rays and signed Casey Kotchman, who now figures to get the bulk of the duty at first. Few believe Kotchman can replicate his stellar 2011 campaign at the plate, but his gold-glove caliber defense makes him valuable, especially with this pitching staff.

Sizemore’s injury opens a spot in the outfield as Michael Brantley will shift to center at least until Grady comes back. Canzler will get a look in left, as will former Rockie Ryan Spilborghs.

Choo returns healthy this year and the Tribe hope that also means a return to form. The same can be said of oft-injured DH Travis Hafner. The Indians aren’t a particularly young club, but they do have a group of young players who have not yet grown into major league stars; though they could. A full season from Kipnis and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall will be enough to boost the overall offense of this club, and switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana has elite-level talent with the bat. Even without a healthy Sizemore, the Indians should be a much more potent club than they were a season ago. The lineup figures to be ultra-left handed heavy, but looking around the division, they will face very few southpaws, and even fewer that would be described as “tough”. The Indians should rake against right handers.

Key Additions: RHP Derek Lowe, 1B/OF Russ Canzler, RHP Dan Wheeler, OF Ryan Spilborghs, RHP Kevin Slowey

Key Subtractions:DH Jim Thome, OF Kosuke Fukudome, RHP Carlos Carrasco (injured)

Projected (healthy) Lineup

  • CF- Grady Sizemore
  • 2B- Jason Kipnis
  • SS- Asdrubal Cabrera
  • C- Carlos Santana
  • RF- Shin-Soo Choo
  • DH- Travis Hafner
  • 1B- Casey Kotchman
  • 3B- Lonnie Chisenhall
  • LF- Michael Brantley

Pitching Staff

  1. RHP Justin Masterson
  2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
  3. RHP Derek Lowe
  4. RHP Josh Tomlin
  5. RHP Kevin Slowey

CL- Chris Perez

SU- Vinnie Pestano

RHP- Joe Smith

LHP- Rafael Perez

LHP- Tony Sipp