Diving into the depths: Cleveland Indians

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Cleveland Indians
1. Jake Westbrook
2. Justin Masterson
3. Fausto Carmona
4. David Huff
5. Aaron Laffey
6. Carlos Carrasco
7. Mitch Talbot
8. Jeremy Sowers
9. Hector Ambriz
10. Hector Rondon
11. Rafael Perez
12. Jeanmar Gomez
Talbot, the product of the Kelly Shoppach trade with Tampa Bay, is the only new addition on the pitching side of the 40-man roster.
Westbrook and Masterson figure to enter camp as the only two locks for the rotation, but Carmona and Huff will certainly control their own destinies. If they turn in decent springs, then it should come down to Laffey, Carrasco and Talbot for the last spot. Carrasco is the biggest talent in the group, but the older pitchers may get the benefit of the doubt initially.
1. Kerry Wood
2. Chris Perez
3. Tony Sipp
4. Rafael Perez
5. Jensen Lewis
6. Joe Smith
7. Aaron Laffey
8. Jason Grilli
9. Jess Todd
10. Saul Rivera
11. Mitch Talbot
12. Jeremy Sowers
13. Hector Ambriz
14. Yohan Pino
15. Mike Gosling
16. Steven Wright
17. Neil Wagner
The bullpen is plenty deep, as the Indians have as many interesting relief prospects as any organization in baseball. I’m guessing Laffey will be in the rotation, opening up the last spot for Grilli. There’s been talk of moving Perez into the rotation as well, but the Indians don’t plan on making the switch this spring, since he wouldn’t be in a position to throw 180 innings this season anyway.

1. Lou Marson
2. Mike Redmond
3. Carlos Santana
4. Wyatt Toregas
5. Chris Gimenez
First base
1. Matt LaPorta
2. Andy Marte
3. Jordan Brown
4. Shelley Duncan
5. Brian Buscher
Second base
1. Luis Valbuena
2. Mark Grudzielanek
3. Jason Donald
4. Brian Bixler
5. Luis Rodriguez
Third base
1. Jhonny Peralta
2. Andy Marte
3. Jason Donald
4. Brian Buscher
5. Luis Rodriguez
6. Wes Hodges
1. Asdrubal Cabrera
2. Luis Valbuena
3. Jhonny Peralta
4. Jason Donald
5. Luis Rodriguez
6. Brian Bixler
Redmond, who will back up either Marson or Santana, is the only free agent the Indians have signed to a major league contract.
The additions of Grudzy and Bixler suggest that the Indians aren’t sold on Donald as a platoonmate for the left-handed-hitting Valbuena at second base. Odds are that only one will be on the squad in Jamey Carroll’s old role, and Donald’s experience at shortstop might not help his case a whole lot, since Valbuena and Peralta can both play behind Cabrera there.
Left field
1. Michael Brantley
2. Austin Kearns
3. Matt LaPorta
4. Trevor Crowe
5. Jordan Brown
6. Shelley Duncan
Center field
1. Grady Sizemore
2. Michael Brantley
3. Trevor Crowe
4. Austin Kearns
Right field
1. Shin-Soo Choo
2. Austin Kearns
3. Jordan Brown
4. Trevor Crowe
5. Shelley Duncan
Designated hitter
1. Travis Hafner
2. Andy Marte
3. Shelley Duncan
4. Jordan Brown
5. Brian Buscher
I’m putting LaPorta at first base, since the Indians seem to have weaker alternatives there than in left field. I hope the Indians give Kearns every opportunity to take over in left. Brantley played well in 28 games after his callup last season (.313/.358/.348), but his .267/.350/.361 line from Triple-A was hardly awe inspiring. Kearns offers more short-term upside.

Terry Francona sets Indians’ World Series rotation for first three games

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 18:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during game four of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 18, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that Indians manager Terry Francona has set his starting rotation for the first three games of the World Series against the Cubs. Corey Kluber will start Game One, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games Two and Three, respectively.

Kluber, the ace of the staff, has had a terrific postseason. He’s made three starts with a 0.98 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians won two of his starts — Game Two of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.

Bauer was unable to make it out of the first inning of his ALCS Game 3 start against the Blue Jays after the stitches on his pinky opened up and caused blood to pour out. He suffered the injury repairing one of his drones, which he builds as a hobby. Bauer insists he’ll be good to go in Game Two, though he also insisted that the injury wouldn’t be an impediment against the Jays.

Tomlin has made two solid starts for the Indians, allowing a total of three runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Indians won both games he started, Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the ALCS. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes that if Bauer can’t go in Game Two, Tomlin will be moved up to start in his place.

Alex Rodriguez credits Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein with Cubs’ turnaround

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13:  Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, celebrates after the Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League Division Series to win the NLDS 3-1 at Wrigley Field on October 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals with a score of 6 to 4.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.

Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.

What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.

A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.

This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.

Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.