Yes, it's that time of year again. Spring Training. And for the first time in six years, the Indians are the defending AL Central Division Champs. Still has a nice ring to it. Unless someone totally surprises—or, God forbid, gets hurt—it should be a pretty uneventful camp, as there are really only two spots up for grabs:
- Who will be the last guy in the bullpen: Jorge Julio or Tom Mastny? My hunch is if Julio is decent in Winter Haven, it will probably be him, as Mastny still has options. And if Julio pulls a Roberto Hernandez, the Tribe can cut ties with him as they see fit.
- Who will be the fifth starter: Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers, or Aaron Laffey? All three have options left—but Lee is making a butt-load of money, and other than last year has been solid in the rotation.
Sowers and Laffey are still young and will be an integral part of the Tribe in 2009, if not 2008, as pitching injuries are a common occurrence. So unless Lee falls apart or they showcase him for a trade, when the Tribe breaks camp, starter number five is going to be him.Those are really the only roster questions the Indians have coming into 2008—but, as always, my slightly-twisted mind has some others...
Can Victor Martinez make me worship him? Honestly, the All-Star game performance, the emotion after the ALCS, the leadership, the mentoring of the other Venezuelan players—how can you not love this guy? He had a crappy 2006 then made a point to be a better catcher without impacting his bat. This guy is the leader of the team.
How many heart attacks will Iron Joe gives us? Yet, he saved 45 games in 2007. It makes no sense, and I have no answers. All I know is that the Indians are saving thousands of dollars on post-game meals by switching from Bob Wickman to Iron Joe, and the ninth inning when the Indians have a three-run lead is one of the most painful things a man can go through.
Will Pronk aka Travis Hafner triumphantly return, or will I curse him for 400 of his at-bats? He needs to come back so when Garko breaks out—they can be like Batman and Robin—and the Chinch and I can come up with a completely stupid, yet completely awesome, nickname for them. Ace and Gary are already taken, Rob.
Who is this Japanese pitcher, and why do I feel like I've seen him before? Will the Japanese guy actually pitch well or will all the Kaz Tadano jokes come back? Please don't be Kaz Tadano. Please don't be Kaz Tadano. The Chinch and I saw Kaz Tadano make his MLB debut at The Jake. My perception of Japanese pitchers has never been the same.
Is Andy K-Marte going to actually pan out or is he going to K all the time like last year? Get it? K-Marte! Ha ha ha! Ugh. Please be good.
Will I cave and buy an "As-man #13" J-shirt (that's a jersey t-shirt)? Absolutely not! Omar is the only #13 in my mind, and the Feller #19 jersey is my rock. But I know someone from North Ridgeville who's getting a XXL "As-man #13" J-shirt for his anniversary! Wink, wink!
And most importantly, which of these two guys will make me madder: Jason Michaels or David Dellucci? This is like the only part of the team I feel really, really, really, really uncomfortable about. Not like Iron-Joe-ninth-inning uncomfortable. Despite it being torturous, situations like that normally work out for us—knock on wood.
But this whole LF platoon thing just has "train wreck" written all over it. The Looch completely tore his hammy last year, and did nothing against RHP last year. The Surfer Dude has already shown he is not an everyday player, and really doesn't do anything really well except falling down on the warning track catching balls that a normal player would have caught while still maintaining an upright position.
Why do I feel like a trade is imminent? Either that, or a three-man rotation of Frankie Guut, El Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo (thank God he's Korean and not Japanese) in LF and RF is upon us, or...Casey Blake, ending up in the outfield again???
Prove me wrong, boys. Prove me wrong.