For the first time since 2000, the Indians will open a season without CC Sabathia in their rotation, but starting pitching should remain a position of strength for the team.
In a weak AL Central division, Cliff Lee is clearly the dominant pitcher.
Lee finished last year with a record of 22-3 and a 2.54 ERA.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner would headline most divisions, but even with some regression Lee should be just fine at the front end of the Indians rotation.
After Lee, the rotation is less certain.
Injured Jake Westbrook will not be available until the all-star break and Fausto Carmona is looking to bounce back after injuries hampered his 2008.
Carmona will fill the two-hole in the rotation, as he hopes to improve on an 8-7, 5.44 ERA campaign.
General Manager, Mark Shapiro, is counting on Carl Pavano to return to his Florida Marlin form after spending three-years in New York, mostly on the disabled list.
Pavano, 4-2, 5.77 ERA last year, is expected to be the third starter, but with his history, this seems slightly unlikely.
The last two spots will be determined from a list of Anthony Reyes, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Scott Lewis, Zach Jackson and David Huff.
Shapiro has already said that Reyes will be in the rotation as long as he is healthy. I think the final spot goes to Laffey out of spring training.
A lot of attention has been given to Huff and Peter Gammons thinks he could reach double-digit victories this year.
The organization seems content to keep their star prospects in the minors at the start of the season, as they expect to contend in the weak Central Division.
If the rotation that breaks camp is Lee, Carmona, Pavano, Reyes (2-1, 1.83 in Cleveland) and Laffey (5-7, 4.23), that ought to be good enough to rank second in the division.
The Twins anticipated slate of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Glenn Perkins should rate ahead of the Tribe’s and is the main reason that the Twins find themselves in contention this season.
For the Indians rotation to pass the Twins, Carmona will have to be the dominant starter he was in 2007 when he finished in fourth place in Cy Young voting.
If he cannot be that player, the Indians will have to find someone who can be. It could be a healthy Pavano returning to 2004 when he won 18 games or one of the kids breaking out.
If the Indians think they can contend in 2009, they cannot be a one horse team.