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Are the Indians Armed and Ready?

The baseball season is just underway, but Cleveland Indian fans are already noticing the issues building in their ball club. Who can blame them?

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Historically, it’s not often that teams with 0-5 starts are spraying champagne come the season’s end. But what caused the Tribe’s troubles? I believe that a few main things caused the issues brewing in Cleveland.

The main thing is that the Indians lack a reliable pitching staff. Cliff Lee, last season’s 22-game winner, Al-Star game starter, and Cy Young Award winner, has pitched twice already and has yet to pick up a victory. Another starter that has gone down in value is Fausto Carmona. In 2007 he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and nearly won the Cy Young Award. This season however, he was charged with a loss against Toronto in his first start.

Their third rotation spot belongs to Carl Pavano, who is one of the league’s most injury-prone starters. Pavano had his strongest year in 2004, when he went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA. But after that, he hasn’t had a strong season. And in his first start with the Indians, he didn’t look like he had his best stuff. He pitched one inning and let up nine runs.

I think in order for Cleveland to succeed, Lee, Carmona, and Pavano must pitch like they have in the past, and the other two rotation spots must be filled by guys who can give quality starts consistently. One option for the fourth or fifth rotation spot is young lefty Scott Lewis, but he is currently excused from playing baseball due to forearm pain.

Already, it seems as if injuries will impact the team. Lewis, David Dellucci, and Jamey Carroll are all on the 15-day disabled list while starter Jake Westbrook is out for much longer. These players must recover fast.

But it is even more important that Travis Hafner is completely recovered from the shoulder surgery he had last season. If he can’t be a consistent run producer then I think that the Indians and their fans may be in for a long season.

Although the Cleveland Indians are a problem-filled team, they do have some important strong points. For example, Grady Sizemore is one of the league’s most valuable players. He can run, hit, and play the field with great skill. He was a member of the American League All-Star team last season and was the Indians’ strongest producer. I think Sizemore could be a contender for Most Valuable Player, but only if he helps his team reach the playoffs regardless of their weak pitching.

So what will happen? Will Hafner and Sizemore lead the Tribe to the Word Series? Or will bad starting pitching lead the Indians to a breakdown later on this year? All there is to do for Indians fans to do is sit back, watch, and hope for the best of the 2009 baseball season.