Photo by Nick Camino / Newsradio WTAM 1100
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians will hold their first full squad workout of spring training on Monday at the club's player development complex, so before preparations officially get underway with the entire team, let's take a look at five storylines for Tribe camp.
1. Pitching, pitching and more pitching: New year, same deal for the Indians. This Tribe club will go as far as their starting pitching rotation takes them. That could probably be said for any MLB team, but for the Indians what they get for their starting five and bullpen is paramount to their overall success. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer will anchor the rotation, while Andrew Miller and Cody Allen will see the most high-leverage situations out of the bullpen this year. But there are two spots that appear to be open in the rotation and probably two more jobs in the 'pen. Who steps up to take those jobs will be fun to watch in spring camp.
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2. Competitions: Similar to last season, there are not very many jobs open on the Indians 25 man roster. That's obviously a good thing. The more spring training competitions a club has, probably means the more uncertainty and questions that linger about that group. The Tribe brings back the nucleus of a team that has won back-to-back AL Central Division titles, so there are not many jobs to figure out. Michael Brantley's status may impact a bench job or two that appear to be open for the Tribe. Rajai Davis and Melvin Upton make duke it out for those. On top of that, there are two jobs in the starting rotation to get sorted out between Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger and Danny Salazar. And there are likely two bullpen spots open that will be sorted out among a plethora of arms.
3. Bounce-back year: Jason Kipnis has reported to camp and he appears to be on a mission for 2018. Playing the outfield during last year's postseason and having his name thrown in the hat with a bunch of trade rumors over the off-season has the former All-Star second baseman back and ready to put a tough last season behind him. Watching him throughout spring camp will be fun.
4. Key losses: It will be interesting both in spring camp and as the 2018 regular season gets underway to see how the Indians will respond to important pieces leaving their roster like Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce and Bryan Shaw. Santana's replacement is new 1B/DH Yonder Alonso. Jay Bruce will be replaced by a few different pieces like Melvin Upton, Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer. And Shaw's role could be filled by a combination of Tyler Olson, Dan Otero and Nick Goody.
5. Overwhelming favorites: For the third-straight season the Indians are a big-time favorite to win the AL-Central Division according to Vegas oddsmakers and this radio talk show host. Three teams are rebuilding in the AL-Central and the Minnesota Twins would be the first to admit they overachieved in 2017. The Indians win total was set at 94.5 by Bovada LV. Sure, that's high, but it's an indication of how dominant the Tribe can be in one of the weakest divisions in MLB. However, how the Indians handle big-time expectations again will tell us a lot about whether this club is up to the task to end a 70-year World Series drought.
- Nick Camino