Cleveland Indians Set to Open Spring Training Next Week

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIFebruary 6, 2013

Terry Francona will begin his reign as the Indians Manager this week.
Terry Francona will begin his reign as the Indians Manager this week.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers are to report to Goodyear, Ariz. on Sunday, February 10. The full squad is to be in camp on Wednesday, February 13 with the first spring games scheduled for Friday, February 22, against the Cincinnati Reds.

There are 36 spring training games scheduled, and the season opener is Tuesday, April 2 at the Toronto Blue Jays.

Cleveland has made some major changes in the offseason. Manager Manny Acta was let go prior to the end of the 2012 season, and veteran Terry Francona was hired over popular Sandy Alomar Jr. to get the Tribe back on track.

The Indians have struggled over the past five seasons and have not had a winning record or made the playoffs, since going 96-66 in 2007 when they lost in the ALCS.

They won 81 games in 2008 and 80 games in 2011 but have not been contenders in the AL Central Division since 2007.

Francona brings a wealth of baseball knowledge and experience to the Indians. He won two World Series rings as the manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.

Will he be able to mold a winner from the smaller budget lineup that the Indians will put on the field?

The Indians' pitching rotation appears to be basically settled with Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach McAllister in the first three spots. The fourth and fifth starters will depend on the health and performance of David Huff, Brett Myers, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and veteran Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir has not pitched in the majors since 2011 but has played in Puerto Rico over the winter.

Relief pitching was strong for the Tribe in 2012, and they should have a solid bullpen again this year with no major changes. Chris Perez will provide closing duties, with Vinnie Pestano also available.

Hitting was the big concern for the team last year, and it doesn’t appear that the Indians will be averaging six runs per game anytime soon.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are all returning. Michael Brantley and Ezequiel Carrera will be in the outfield with new addition Nick Swisher.

Swisher is 33 years old. Are his best years behind him, or can he help bolster the line up?

With Detroit adding personnel and payroll and Chicago expected to be strong again this season, it appears that the Tribe will do well to finish third in the division.

Francona will need to exercise some patience with his young players. He is accustomed to working with veterans. Some of his current roster should probably still be in Columbus.