(GOODYEAR, Ariz.) -- It’s already been one week since I arrived in the “Valley of the Sun” for spring training and while camp is only just getting underway for the Cleveland Indians, I’ve made more than a few observations regarding the Tribe.
Here’s 10 things I’ve observed already as well as some stories to follow as camp progresses:
1. Santana at 3B: The Indians have yet to play a spring training exhibition Cactus League game, however I’m already impressed with what I’ve been able to watch of Carlos Santana at third base. Yes, it is extremely early; but at least Santana’s passing the eye test right now. Don’t forget, he did start his big league career as a third baseman. I also feel if big Miguel Cabrera can do it, Santana certainly is up to the challenge. Let’s also keep in mind, this may still be Lonnie Chisenhall’s job to lose.
Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall are competing for the job at third base during this spring camp. So far, Santana has looked solid in his transition to the hot corner. (Photo courtesy Nick Camino)
2. Names to remember: I’ll keep this simple; but don’t be surprised if one or two of these guys make the club. Yes, they are new faces, but you could see them in Cleveland to start the 2014 season. INF/OF Elliott Johnson, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Nyjer Morgan, C Matt Treanor, LHP Josh Outman and RHP Scott Atchison. No, all of these guys will not make the club. But don’t be surprised if one or two of them do even though they were not here a year ago.
3. Bullpen situation: It is odd not seeing RHP Joe Smith or RHP Chris Perez around, but the Indians certainly have arms in camp to try and replace them. As for the back-end situation, it may be a little bit different than in previous seasons for the Tribe. RHP John Axford will be the club’s closer, however there will not be pitcher’s designated for the 7th or 8th inning. Terry Francona will likely go by committee and mix and match until the final frame.
4. Former Tribe legends in camp: It’s always fun seeing members of those great 90’s Indians teams in camp. Former Indians skipper Mike Hargrove is here in camp helping out as a special advisor while a few of his former players, Charlie Nagy, Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga are also in spring camp. I realize the Indians are trying to create their own new memories, but those 90’s Indians were so special.
Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi take a break from Wednesday's full squad workout at the Indians player development complex in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo courtesy Nick Camino)
5. Competitions: The less competitions a Major League Baseball club has heading into a season, the better team they probably are. Normally young teams with uncertainties have competitions, not clubs looking to win their respective divisions. This spring the Indians don’t have many competitions, but there are some jobs open for the taking. Two or three bullpen jobs appear to be open, the fifth starter spot, third base and one or two bench jobs. The bench job and perhaps the backup catcher spot may directly be impacted by how Carlos Santana does at third base.
6. Perfect weather: In case anybody in Northeast Ohio was curious, the weather in Goodyear, Arizona has been absolutely perfect. Actually a little bit warmer than usual. Sorry! I had to throw that in here somewhere!
7. Fifth starter candidates: In case you’re still wondering who is in on the fifth starter competition. Here are the names to know vying for that final spot in the starting pitching rotation: Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Harang and Josh Tomlin.
New Tribe right-hander Aaron Harang took part in the Indians morning workout on Wednesday. Harang signed a Minor League deal with an invite to big league camp. He is competing for a spot in the Tribe's rotation. (Photo courtesy Nick Camino)
8. First game: Don’t forget the first Cactus League exhibition game is Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 3:05 pm ET when the Indians battle the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. You can listen to the game on Newsradio WTAM 1100.
9. 49 out of 63: If you’re ever questioning why so many players are in camp or you’re just not sure of certain players, look no further than this stat. Indians manager Terry Francona let it be known early in this year’s spring camp that of the 63 players in big league camp a year ago, 49 of them were used at the big league level…only two on other Major League teams. Francona stressed this to guys early on in camp letting them know how important depth is and that if they don’t make the club out of spring training, there is still a good chance they’ll be needed in Cleveland at some point throughout the 162-game season.
10. Early days: Players get their work in and get out early. That’s important at this point in camp. If guys take care of what they need to, they can finish up their day by 1:00 pm. Yes, they do arrive early, some as early as 6:15 am. Taking care of their bodies and resting are paramount when getting set to embark on a six-month, 162-game marathon baseball season.
- Nick Camino