Off to the races: Indians want a fast start in 2016

Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on Wednesday

February 16th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- The Indians are not interested in consolation prizes. Piecing together a winning record for a third straight season and turning in one of the American League's best records in the second half did not mean much when the dust settled last season.
The Tribe was left wanting more.
"We didn't make it to the postseason, so it wasn't what we were shooting to do," Corey Kluber said. "Our goal at the beginning of every year is to play in the postseason, and we came up short of that."
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The goal remains the same this year as the Indians prepare for Spring Training. While many of Cleveland's players are already on site at the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers arrives on Wednesday. Following a series of workouts specifically designed for that group, the full squad will report on Sunday.
For the first couple of weeks, new additions such as left fielder Rajai Davis and first baseman Mike Napoli -- each signed to a one-year deal this offseason -- will get accustomed to their new surroundings. The highly touted starting rotation will take its first steps towards trying to pave the path to the postseason. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year Award last season, will prep for an important sophomore campaign.

"I want to play the last game of the playoffs," Lindor said. "I want to talk to you guys and be like, 'We won.' That's all I want. I always wanted to win and, ultimately, I want to come home and I tell my Dad, 'I won a World Series.' That, to me, that's it. That's it."
Cleveland will begin its Cactus League slate at 3:05 p.m. ET on March 1 against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark., SportsTime Ohio and WTAM 1100-AM will all carry that first Spring Training contest. Following the preseason, the Indians will head home to Progressive Field, where the team will play host to the Red Sox in a 4:10 p.m. ET Opening Day clash on April 4.
Spring Training info
This season, the Indians want April to be a memorable month for good reasons. In each of manager Terry Francona's three years at the helm, Cleveland has stumbled out of the gates and required a strong late-season push. Last summer, the Indians had the fourth-most wins in the AL in the second half, but the early woes dug a hole too deep to overcome.
"It's frustrating, because we play so well in the second half and we're always one of the better teams," Jason Kipnis said. "April is going to be very important for us."
Until then, here are three important questions facing the Indians this spring:
1. How will the Indians make up for the loss of Michael Brantley?

Replacing one of the best left fielders in baseball will be no easy task for the Tribe. What Cleveland needs to hope for most is a swift return for Brantley, who is recovering from right shoulder surgery in November. This spring, the Indians will look at a dozen outfielders in an effort to identify the best combinations to maximize production while Brantley is sidelined. Davis will play a key role, while Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler appear to be the top candidates for spots on the Opening Day roster.
2. How will the batting order look come Opening Day?
Brantley's potential absence into April, or possibly even May, also causes a ripple effect for Francona's batting order. Lindor, Kipnis and Brantley formed a strong trio at the top last summer, but the Indians need to reevaluate the alignment now. Lindor likely will hit within the first three spots, while Kipnis could see a move back to the No. 3 hole, where he spent time in 2013. Davis is another option for leading off. In the middle, Napoli is a possibility for the cleanup spot, which was occupied by Carlos Santana last year.
3. Who will win the vacancies on the pitching staff?

Josh Tomlin seems like the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation, but he will be pushed by right-hander Cody Anderson. Lefty TJ House, who played a key role in 2014, is currently third in that race. In the bullpen, there will be a wide-open competition for a handful of openings. Cleveland has an assortment of righties and lefties coming to camp -- both on the roster and via non-roster invites -- to fight for jobs. If Francona goes with a traditional seven-man bullpen, there could be at least three jobs up for grabs.