The Indians are inching towards the 2020 season. Pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona next Tuesday, with the first full spring training workout Feb. 17. This past weekend, the team held its annual Tribe Fest, a chance for fans to meet the players. WKSU’s sports commentator Terry Pluto caught up with manager Terry Francona and others to talk about the upcoming season.
“The Indians had yet another boring offseason,” Pluto said. “They never win the offseason, and fans are upset. They’re cutting payroll again, which is what they often do. And I think that people often lose sight of the fact that this is still a pretty good team.”
The reason? Pitching.
"Francona said when he steps in front of the team at the start of training, he says, ‘I don’t have to lie. When I tell them if we play the game the right way, we’re going to contend. It comes down to pitching. Pitching is strong.’ He’d rather have a team strong in pitching than hitting."
"In the last seven years, the Indians have the best record in the American League after the All-Star break because their pitching kind of kicks in and that’s going to help carry them again,” Pluto said.
At this point, it’s looking certain that star shortstop Francisco Lindor will be with the Indians this upcoming season. He's been at the center of trade talks in the offseason, with two years left under club control. Lindor and the team avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $17.5 million deal.
“The fact is, a couple years ago, they offered him over $100 million for like seven years," Pluto said. "He turned it down, along with a couple similar contracts. The moment he did that you know he’s heading toward free agency. He said he wants to win and loves to be in Cleveland but then he also said he wants a lot of years and a lot of money. That often means 10 years and like $350 million. I’m not giving anybody a 10-year contract. These are disastrous," Pluto said.
Franmil Reyes, the power hitter that the Indians picked up late last season, will be back with the team, and the hope is that he can play right field.
“He’s still only 24 and he’s still really learning how to hit," Pluto said. "He hit 34 homers last year and he almost doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. Guys tend to hit in their late-20s with a little more power. He could probably hit 40 home runs just doing what he’s doing if he stays healthy.”
Pluto said the team also needs star third baseman Jose Ramirez to avoid his early season slump.
“They have some positive vibes about it but they’re a team that’s going to rely on pitching and they want their defense to be good and hopefully be a scrappy offensive team.”