Indians report to camp ready for big things in 2015
Tribe looks to make strides toward making the postseason after missing out last year
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have been waiting for this day. After coming so close to reaching the postseason last fall, and then watching the rival Royals' run to the World Series, Cleveland's players were looking forward to getting started on the 2015 campaign.
On Wednesday, spring officially began for the Indians with the arrival of the reporting date for the team's pitchers and catchers. As has been a trend in recent years for the Tribe, though, many of the club's players have already been on hand in Arizona for a week or longer.
The Indians want desperately to return to the October stage this year.
"Absolutely, especially seeing the Royals go all the way to the World Series," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "That was almost bittersweet. It's bitter because they're there, but it's sweet because you know you can be there. We've got 23 guys back from the team last year. I think we're in a good spot."
The schedule following the reporting date includes physicals for pitchers and catchers on Thursday and then the first workout on Friday. The Indians' position players are then required to report on Sunday, with their physicals on Monday and the first full-squad practice to follow on Tuesday. Cleveland will then open its Cactus League slate against the Reds on March 3 at Goodyear Ballpark.
On the pitching side, the Indians added to their rotation over the winter by signing veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd to a one-year contract and bolstered their bullpen options with a bevy of non-roster signees. Cleveland added to its lineup over the offseason by trading for slugger Brandon Moss, who can play first base and the corner outfield spots.
The Indians did not overhaul their roster, but the team believes its core group -- led by American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, MVP finalist Michael Brantley and Gomes, among others -- is developing into something special. Even last season, when the Tribe dealt with a long list of injuries and setbacks, the team managed to win 85 games and remained in contention until the final weekend of the season.
"Starting from 2013, things are different here," Indians outfielder Nick Swisher said. "This is not the Cleveland baseball that everybody in Cleveland is used to watching. This is a great team and we've got a chance to win. With two winning seasons for the first time in a long time, that's not bad. That's a good start. For us, we're all excited to be here. Everybody is here early."
This spring, the main position battle will be the race for the final spot in the starting rotation, which could impact the last spot or two in the bullpen.
Kluber and Floyd join Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer as the perceived locks for starting roles, while Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin compete for the final job. McAllister and Tomlin could be bullpen candidates, if they do not win the last rotation role. Right now, it is not clear whether manager Terry Francona plans on carrying seven or eight relievers come Opening Day.
The locks for the 'pen right now appear to be closer Cody Allen, setup men Bryan Shaw and Scott Atchison, along with lefties Marc Rzepczynski and Nick Hagadone. Lefty Kyle Crockett also spent time in the Majors last season and enters camp as a front-runner for a roster spot. Other options include Austin Adams, Scott Downs, C.C. Lee, Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak, among others.
The other issue that will be settled this spring is the makeup of Cleveland's bench. Beyond backup catcher Roberto Perez, the Indians have utility men Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn in the fold. Young outfielders Zach Walters and Tyler Holt are also competing for a spot after spending time in the big leagues last year. Veteran David Murphy -- Cleveland's main right fielder a year ago -- is also still in the mix.
One reason for the surplus of outfielders is the fact that the Indians will be monitoring the health of players such as Swisher (surgery on both knees in August), Raburn (left knee surgery in September) and Moss (hip surgery in October). Cleveland wants to have contingency plans in place in the event that one or more of those players are not cleared to be on the Opening Day roster.
"We're in a good position," Gomes said, "and we're excited to get going."
Kluber echoed that sentiment.
"I think this time of year is exciting," said the pitcher, "because in the offseason you have that anticipation for when things are ready to start and get going. Now, you're actually at that point. I'm sure everybody is anxious to get the ball rolling here."