It’s not how you start…

The buzz word inside the Indians’ clubhouse right now is not “competing” or “contending.” No, the expectations right now are all centered around “winning” and making the playoffs.

It’s not just the players saying what they think they should say. Teams that know they have no shot don’t go into Spring Training selling fans pipe dreams about deep postseason runs. Those teams tend to lean more on phrases like, “We are hoping to be a competitive team this year.” Translation: Wait ’til next year, or maybe the year after that.

These Indians really feel they have a shot to take the American League Central crown. They said similar things last year, many people rolled their eyes, and then the Tribe stormed out to that 30-15 start and held on to first place until July 22.

“That’s what was expected out of our club the beginning of last year,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “That’s why guys went out there and believed in themselves. Obviously, some things happened. You can believe all you want. You still have to win.”

Asked by one reporter if the team could go back and analyze that 30-15 start to find out what was working for the club, Acta cut off the question and replied:

“We’re talented. We have some talent here. It wasn’t anything different that we did in Spring Training or anything like that. Our focus is to win and when you’re in a rebuilding process you can see it from year to year. We’re talented. It’s not a fluke when you spend as long as we did in first place.”

Injuries or not — and that certainly took a toll on the Tribe in 2011 — Acta would’ve preferred to see more consistency over the course of the entire season. That is what the manager is hoping to witness in 2012.

“Everybody would like to win right off the bat,” Acta said. “It’s what comes after that. How many teams start 30-15? You’re not going to see that very often. We’d still like to have a goodstart — that sets the tone. But it’s such a long season. That’s why we downplayed allthat all the time. It’s 162 games.

“What I want to see is consistent baseball throughout the year. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how we start or how we finish. We want to be in the playoffs.”

Some notes from Tuesday…

  • It didn’t take long for the Indians to find a taker for the lone empty locker in their clubhouse. Veteran infielder Cristian Guzman was sitting at that stall on Tuesday morning. After missing all of last season — he said his surgically-repaired right  shoulder needed the year to rest — Guzman is trying to make a comeback. He took a physical with the team on Tuesday and is hoping to have a Minor League deal be made official on Wednesday. Acta would not comment on the possible signing.
  • The Indians completed a minor trade on Tuesday, sending Minor League lefty Kelvin De La Cruz to the Rangers in exchange for cash considerations. The Tribe designated De La Cruz for assignment last week to clear room on the roster for 1B Casey Kotchman. Last spring, De La Cruz did standing back flip on the first day of camp. No word on whether De La Cruz was doing back flips over the news that he had been dealt.
  • 3B Lonnie Chisenhall will be wearing No. 8 this year — the same number worn by one of his childhood heros, Cal Ripken Jr. Chisenhall said he and 2B Jason Kipnis had a “gentlemen’s bet” over No. 8, which both of them wanted. The first player to reach the Majors would get to weat the number. Chisenhall got the call on June 27 last season and Kipnis followed suit on July 22. Chisenhall wore “27″ last year.
  • Acta said he’s be lying if he said results did not enter into the equation for the evaluation of the fifth starter competition. Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff and Zach McAllister have been named as candidates for the job. If you ask me, Slowey and Gomez seem to be the front-runners.
  • Gomez said a big part of his offseason was spent resting his right knee, which gave him some trouble throughout last season. Huff said he continued to work on getting comfortable with the changes he made to his delivery last year. Slowey cited a lack of consistency when asked about his 2011 struggles.
  • Slowey deflected questions about his issues with working as a reliever last year with the Twins. Reports were that he and the Minnosota brass were at odds when the team wanted him to work out of the bullpen. Slowey said he wanted to leave the past in the past, adding that he was looking forward to trying to convince the Indians to trust him with the fifth rotation job.
  • Acta said the Indians have identified some mechanical issues experienced by veteran sinkerballer Derek Lowe in his subpar 2011 showing with the Braves. Acta also noted that the Tribe wants to see Lowe get back to throwing his bread and butter pitch — the sinker — more often this year. I did a blog post on the very subject recently. CLICK HERE to give it a read.
  • Acta and GM Chris Antonetti have been holding two-on-one meetings with all the pitchers and catchers. They’ll do the same with the position players when they all are in camp. They use the meetings to go over goals and expectations for the coming season, and to discuss the players’ roles and chances of making the team. The first official workout for pitchers and catchers is Wednesday.

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Photo of the Day

Reunited and it feels so good: Carlos Santana & Michael Brantley.

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Stay tuned for more…

–JB

4 Comments

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I LOL’d at the proof of evolution toy! I want to buy it.Off-Topic: John, are you ever going to revvie George Liquor in webcomic or webtoon form? I love that series.

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