Fu­ture looks bright for Tribe this spring

Schudel re­mem­bers days when re­ports were few, but op­ti­mistic

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - Jeff Schudel

“Peo­ple ask me what I do in win­ter when there’s no base­ball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the win­dow and wait for spring.” — Hall of Fame se­cond base­man Rogers Hornsby

Among my fond­est mem­o­ries grow­ing up is flip­ping to the sports sec­tion of my morn­ing pa­per start­ing in mid-Fe­bru­ary and on through the end of March, be­cause that was the only way to learn what the In­di­ans were do­ing in spring train­ing in Tuc­son, Ariz.

It didn’t even mat­ter that the In­di­ans were gen­er­ally lousy ev­ery year from 1960 to 1972, fin­ish­ing no higher than third (and only once) in that 13-year stretch. There was al­ways hope ev­ery spring the new year would be dif­fer­ent, and those dis­patches from the desert would tell the sto­ries of Vic Davalillo, Max Alvis, Rocky Colav­ito, Sam McDow­ell and the rest.

The In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia make the news in­stan­ta­neous now. But I be­lieve oth­ers whose hair has grayed as mine has might agree when I say the min­i­mal ac­cess made the re­ports we did

get from Hi Cor­bett Field in Tuc­son words to de­vour.

Spring train­ing for the cur­rent In­di­ans be­gins on Feb. 14 when pitch­ers and catch­ers re­port to Goodyear, Ariz. Their work­outs be­gin the next day.

Po­si­tion play­ers are due in Goodyear on Feb. 18. The first full-squad work­out is set for Feb. 19. The Tribe’s first Cac­tus League game is sched­uled for 3 p.m. Feb. 23 vs. the Cincin­nati Reds. And so the In­di­ans’ quest for a third straight post­sea­son berth be­gins.

“Spring train­ing means flow­ers, peo­ple com­ing out­doors, sun­shine, op­ti­mism and base­ball. Spring train­ing is a time to think about be­ing young again.” — Hall of Fame in­fielder Ernie Banks

The In­di­ans are heavy fa­vorites to re­peat as Cen­tral Di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons. They are ranked sixth over­all in Ma­jor League

Base­ball by Bleacher Re­port head­ing into spring train­ing. The Yan­kees (fifth), Na­tion­als, Dodgers, Cubs and de­fend­ing World Se­ries cham­pion As­tros (first) are ranked ahead of the Tribe.

In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona has only a hand­ful of ques­tions to an­swer be­fore break­ing camp and head­ing to Seat­tle to play the Mariners on March 29 in the sea­son opener. At the top of the list is mon­i­tor­ing the health of left fielder Michael Brant­ley.

This is the third straight spring Brant­ley’s health has been a con­cern.

His right shoul­der was a ques­tion mark in 2016 and 2017. This spring,

Fran­cona and the train­ers are watch­ing the progress of Brant­ley’s sur­gi­cally re­paired an­kle closely.

“He’ll be dy­ing to start the sea­son on time, as he al­ways does,” Fran­cona said dur­ing Tribe Fest last month. “That will prob­a­bly be our big­gest chal­lenge to make sure we get him back and keep him back and not let open­ing day be an ar­bi­trary dead­line.

But by all ac­counts, he’s do­ing ter­rific.”

Bran­don Guyer can start in left field if Brant­ley still needs time to re­cover.

Yon­der Alonso is re­plac­ing Car­los San­tana at first base. San­tana, who played with the In­di­ans from 2010 to 2017, signed with the Phillies in free agency. It should be a smooth tran­si­tion de­fen­sively. The ques­tion that won’t be an­swered in the desert is whether Alonso can main­tain power for a full sea­son.

Alonso changed his swing from 2016 to 2017 to hit for more power. He hit 20 home runs in his first 71 games last sea­son — roughly a homer once ev­ery 3.5 games — and only eight in his last 63 games — roughly one homer ev­ery eight games.

Most im­por­tantly, Fran­cona has to find a re­lief pitcher, or re­lief pitch­ers, to re­place iron­man Bryan Shaw, who signed with the Rock­ies in free agency. Shaw ap­peared in at least 70 games five straight sea­sons.

“It will prob­a­bly take

more than one guy to fill what he did,” Fran­cona con­ceded. “The good news is we have guys that can do that. I have no doubt guys will step up that we don’t know who they are yet.

“Last year in spring train­ing, I don’t know how many peo­ple asked me about Tyler Ol­son. By the end of the year he had 20 score­less in­nings.

“It hap­pens ev­ery year and it will hap­pen again. That gets ex­cit­ing.”

Goodyear is 2,050 miles away, but it’s as though if you open a win­dow fac­ing south­west, you can hear the ball pop­ping into the catcher’s mitt and the crack of the bat from here.

“It’s the fans that need spring train­ing. You gotta get ’em in­ter­ested. Wake ’em up and let ’em know that their sea­son is com­ing. The good times are gonna roll.” — Famed sports­caster Harry Caray


Ge­orge “Birdie” Teb­betts, In­di­ans man­ager in Tuc­son, Ariz., on Feb. 27, 1963. Jeff Schudel re­mem­bers read­ing about the In­di­ans at spring train­ing while he was grow­ing up.

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