Thursday, February 16, 2006

The First Day of Spring...

...Training, that is. Believe it or not, pitchers and catchers report today at Chain of Lakes Park down in sunny Winter Haven, even as these mounds snow continue to melt around me.

Here's what I'll be watching for as the 2006 edition of the Tribe takes shape:

1. How will the rotation hold up? Last year's 5-man crew each started at least 30 games. That is remarkable, and surely won't be repeated. Can Shapiro's latest reclamation projections hope to match last year's? How will the youngsters perform when they are undoubtedly called upon to fill some holes?

2. How much production can we expect from Left Field? Coco was not spectacular, but he was solid. Jason Michaels has never played full time. How will he do? From an offensive perspective, you can't waste this position

3. How will the bullpen hold up? The 2005 Indians had perhaps the most underrated bullpen in the league. Old Man Wickman pitched out of his ass. He's now 37. Can he do it again? And how will the pen perform in getting to Wicky in the first place, with Howry off to the Cubs? Again, can Shapiro's success at reclamation projects be repeated here?

4. Can Wedge get this team out of the gate quicker? Just think - if the Tribe had played .500 ball in April of last year, we would still be basking in the glow of a playoff appearance. They've stumbled badly the last 2 Aprils. What will Wedgie do to get the offensive production ramped up more quickly this year?

These guys won 93 games last year. My prediction for 2006: 88 wins, second in the AL Central, and at least 5 games out of the wild card.

Sorry, but the pitching just won't be strong enough.


Blogger LargeBill said...

You nailed what the key questions are heading into the season. The biggie as always is pitching. We were very fortunate with major injuries last year.

Personally, I have more optimistic expectations. I'll post something near the end of Spring traing when I have a better feel for how all the pieces will fit together.

7:32 PM  

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