The outlook for 2012 was positive going into Spring Training. Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo were all healthy. The worst two pitchers from last season's starting rotation (Mitch Talbot and Fausto Carmona) were nowhere to be seen. The Indians actually went out and aquired some average talent players (Kevin Slowey, Ryan Spilborghs and Russ Canzler) to fill in the gaps in the roster. It looked like everything that made the Indians good last year was still in place while improvements were made in some weak spots. So much for that.
Within the first week of camp opening both Grady Sizemore and Chris Perez sustained injuries. Sizemore will be out until May while Perez was limited to only three innings all Spring (Perez was perfect over those three innings, so that is a good sign). The offense as a whole was terrible scoring only 133 runs and batting .147. On an individual level, no player was able to stand out and take any of the open positions. Old players like Shelley Duncan and Jason Donald played poorly and were unable to secure positions on the starting roster until late in Spring. Lonnie Chisenhall and Matt LaPorta were unable to secure positions at all and were sent back to the minors (along with Trevor Crowe and Ezequiel Carrera). The new players in camp didn't fare well either as the expected starting left fielder, Ryan Spilborghs, failed to make the team entirely as did expected starting pitcher Kevin Slowey. Of the players aquired in the offseason, only Derek Lowe, Casey Kotchman, Jose Lopez, Aaron Cunningham and Jairo Asencio were able to break the 25 man roster. To top a terrible Spring off, Ubaldo Jimenez has been suspended for his first start for hitting former teammate Troy Tulowitzki during an exhibition game. He will probably appeal the penalty so he can pitch the second game of the season, but he will still miss a start at some point because of it.
The good news is that most of that doesn't actually effect the regular season. While some of the personell decisions could have been better (Chisenhall instead of Lopez and Carrera instead of Cunningham), these shouldn't be a huge drain on the team. The Indians strongest point from last year, the Bullpen Mafia, is still intact with the exception of the two weakest pitchers (Chad Durbin and Frank Herrmann). The offense is largely the same from last year, but hopefully we will see a resurgance from Choo and Hafner and some improved numbers coming from first base from Kotchman. The starting pitching staff looks to be a huge mystery after Justin Masterson as we wait to see if Josh Tomlin was a fluke last season, if Jimenez can forget about last year and if Lowe still has it. All in all it should be an interesting and entertaining season so stay tuned to what surely will be a wild ride.
The whole season is riding on one man's shoulders. We are all Kipnisses.