SLEEPER Josh Barfield has speed, power, a starting second base gig and is only 24 years old. He could be a real difference-maker this season.
BUST Casey Blake is in danger of losing a lot of playing time to Ryan Garko, and doesn't have any available DH at-bats to fall back on.
HITTER TO WATCH: Trevor Crowe, OF Crowe needs to show some more thump to get out of the fourth-outfielder box, but he gets on base and can run a little, which will get him to the big leagues within a year or so.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Adam Miller, RHP
Miller is one of the game's best prospects, a hard-throwing right-hander whose 2005 shoulder trouble appears to be behind him.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED Joe Borowski was chatting with Mark Shapiro on the eve of camp when the GM shocked him. "I've got some news that affects you," Shapiro said. Keith Foulke had retired; the closer's job belonged to Borowski. Last year, Cleveland blew 23 save chances, tying for second worst in the AL. Shapiro believes he now has some late-inning options: veterans Roberto Hernández and Aaron Fultz join the mix, and middle relievers Rafael Betancourt, Matt Miller, Fausto Carmona and Tony Sipp have good stuff. The Indians have a strong lineup and a deep rotation, so it's up to the pen to help them contend.
NEEDS FIXING One day early in camp, Víctor Martínez stood off to the side of the bullpen mounds and simulated throwing to second base, over and over. "It's not about quickness, it's about being consistent with my footwork and arm action," says Martínez, who allowed 100 SBs in 122 attempts last year. Slowing the running game was the Indians' highest priority this spring. Pitchers worked endlessly on holding runners, and Martínez spent so much time simulating, he looked like a mime.
In 2005 and '06, Indians starters not named Sabathia didn't miss a game to
injury. But Cliff Lee already has an ab strain, so keep an eye out for
flamethrower Adam Miller.
When it comes to winning over Clevelanders, whose hometown was ranked the poorest big city in America in 2006, dollar programs and frugal fizz (third-cheapest brew and second-cheapest soda in MLB) go a long way. Ditto for the dogs, which cost just $2.50 per and come with all the Bertman's Ballpark Mustard you can handle. Maybe that's why manager Eric Wedge kept that god-awful flavor saver for so long.
"The Tribe is my pick to win the World Series. I really like what they have for this year. Hafner will compete for MVP. CC was one of the most dominating pitchers in the 2nd half last season."