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Jose Lopez provides nice pop off the bench.
Despite their youth and inconsistency, injuries were the ultimate hindrance on the Tribe’s promising 2011 campaign.
Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore can no longer be counted on to play more than 100 games each, and Cabrera, Santana and Choo have all missed extended time due to injury in the past.
A key difference this season, however, is offensive depth and players knowing their roles.
In the offseason, GM Chris Antonetti made several unheralded moves when he acquired veterans Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez and Aaron Cunningham. All are on the 25-man roster and have played serviceably to start the year. None is a world beater, but each provides something different, with Kotchman’s glove, Lopez’s power and Cunningham’s versatility to play all three outfield positions.
Although still unproven as an everyday player, Shelley Duncan looks leaps and bounds better than Austin Kearns did last season in left field.
Jack Hannahan appears comfortable as an everyday player, and Jason Donald has accepted his role as the Tribe’s utility player off the bench.
Players tend to play better knowing their position, and until Johnny Damon arrives in a few weeks, there won’t be any confusion as to who’s playing where.
The mix of youth and experience on Cleveland’s roster should enable them to remain relatively consistent and avoid extended periods of offensive ineptitude.
With another year of experience for youngsters like Kipnis, Brantley and Jason Donald and the eventual addition of Johnny Damon, the Tribe’s depth should keep it afloat in the event of injury.