Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Five Good Questions with . . . Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer about the Cleveland Indians

Today's Five Good Questions is with The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes....Paul is the Cleveland Indians beat Paul talks about one of the hottest teams in baseball - the Cleveland Indians.....

Q1. The Indians are one of the best teams in baseball even though slugger Travis Hafner has not been hitting well. What is the difference between this year's Indians team compared to last season's?
The big difference is the bullpen and infield defense. The veteran relievers the Indians signed over the winter, Aaron Fultz, Roberto Hernandez and Joe Borowski, have made it very competitive. Holdovers Tom Mastny, Rafael Betancourt and Fernando Cabrera, at least until lately, have pitched well. Edward Mujica is young and has a great arm. Defensively, the Indians were a disaster last year, but they have improved this season. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has been much steadier, Ryan Garko has been a revelation at first, Josh Barfield has range at second and Casey Blake has played great at third since replacing injured Andy Marte.

Q2. Does the Tribe have the staying power to keep in the hunt throughout the season? What areas must they improve upon?
Their depth in the rotation has already been tested with the injuries to Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook. Fausto Carmona has done a great job filling in and Adam Miller might soon get a chance as well. They have decent protection at almost every position except shortstop and second base. What they really need, however, is another experienced late-inning reliever. I look for them to try and fill that need in July or August. Offensively, this team is going to hit. They've done it for two years and will score enough runs to keep them competitive.

Q3. At the unofficial quarter mark in the season, briefly assess the other A.L. Central Division teams and how the Tribe stacks up against them.
The Twins, the defending (A.L. Central) champs, are banged up and aren't hitting much. Cy Young winner Johan Santana might be distracted by contract talks and Joe Mauer, last year's batting champ, is hurt. The White Sox's pitching is coming around, but they're still not hitting. Maybe Jim Thome's return will help. The Tigers, to me, are still the team to beat even without Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya. As for Kansas City, it seemed the only team they could beat last year was the Indians. The Indians finally get to play the Tigers on this trip (May 25-May 27), so that will be interesting. I think the Indians are as good as any team in the division, and could finish anywhere from first to fourth.

Q4. Fausto Carmona may be the hottest pitcher in the league. Do you think he has the ability to keep this up all year or is this just a short hot streak he is on?
He has a great arm and his confidence is high. The Indians did the right thing by putting him back in the rotation at the end of last season. When a pitcher like Carmona comes out of nowhere - he didn't make the opening day roster and went to Class AAA Buffalo as the No.6 starter - and performs like he has, divisions can be won.

Q5. Last season opponents were running on catcher Victor Martinez (photo) as if it was the Daytona 500. What has Martinez done in order to improve in that area?
Martinez's right shoulder was sore in 2006. He had his spring training interrupted by the World Baseball Classic, so he didn't get as much work in behind the plate as he needed. This offseason, he started throwing well before the start of camp, following a program Joel Skinner, the Tribe's catching coach, gave him at the end of last season. He still doesn't have a rocket for an arm, but he's throwing well enough to make the other teams think. Another thing that has helped is manager Eric Wedge keeping Martinez fresh by playing him at first base. This allows Wedge to use backup catcher Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach has a great arm, so the opposition has to worry about both Tribe catchers now. The Tribe's pitchers have helped as well. They're holding runners much better.

I want to thank Paul for taking the time to is much appreciated.....

1 comment:

Mini Me said...

Nice interview. The Indians have a great core of hitters and pitchers. I expect them to make the playoffs in most of the upcoming 5-6 seasons.