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2008 Cleveland Indians Preview

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2008 Cleveland Indians Preview

This might be the last season in Cleveland for 2007 AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Spring training site

Winter Haven, Fla.

2007 record

96-66, won AL Central, lost to Boston in ALCS in seven games

New faces

IF Jamey Carroll (trade with Rockies), RHP Jorge Julio (free agent, Rockies), RHP Masahide Kobayashi (free agent, Japan), OF Jason Tyner (free agent, Twins).

Biggest offseason acquisition

Kobayashi is no hot dog (sorry, couldn't resist), but the Indians made a significant investment in the Japanese reliever, hoping for similar results as the Red Sox received from Hideki Okajima, who had similar statistics in Japan. Kobayashi, who saved 196 games in Japan, is making $6.25 million over two seasons, with a club option for a third year.

Gone but not forgotten

OF Kenny Lofton's third stint with the Indians has come and gone. He provided a spark down the stretch, but is back on the free agent market again at age 40.

Gone but definitely forgotten

OF Trot Nixon wasn't signed for an additional season. He hit just .251 with three homers, yet had one memorable hit to end Game 2 of the ALCS against his old team, the Red Sox. Nixon is trying to win a job in Arizona with the Diamondbacks this spring.

Spring training battles

There are only a couple for the Indians, who return essentially intact. The No. 5 starter is an open spot between RHP Aaron Laffey (who finished the season in the role last year), LHP Cliff Lee, who won 18 games in 2005 but struggled mightily in 2007, and LHP Jeremy Sowers, who was promising in 2006 but went 1-6 last season before being sent back to the minors. Lee is out of options, so he's probably the front-runner.

Projected lineup

Projected starting rotation

Projected bullpen

  • RHP Joe Borowski (closer)
  • RHP Rafael Betancourt
  • LHP Rafael Perez
  • RHP Masahide Kobayashi
  • RHP Jensen Lewis
  • LHP Aaron Fultz
  • RHP Tom Matsny

Biggest strength

The Indians' starting pitching, especially in the top two, holds up well with the rest of the league. The Red Sox figured them out in the postseason, but Sabathia (the 2007 Cy Young winner now in his contract year) and Carmona are probably the best 1-2 punch in the AL. (Only the new Pedro Martinez/ Johan Santana tandem for the Mets is better.)

Glaring weakness

Left field is probably a platoon between Jason Michaels and David Dellucci, an unproductive pair last season that necessitated the trade for Lofton. With promising second-year player Gutierrez in right, the Indians are still looking for a power bat to put in a corner outfield spot. And can Joe Borowski live on the edge for the second year as the Tribe's closer?

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