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Breaking Down the Starting Five: Did Acta Make the Right Rotation Choices?

Manny Acta named Josh Tomlin the final starter for the Cleveland Indians on Friday, March 25th as the Tribe optioned Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff, Tomlin’s competition, to Triple-A Columbus. 

Much has been made about who the starting five should be in 2011, with Cleveland being loaded with lots of young talented arms. Rumors also circulated linking Cleveland to free agent pitchers such as Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood.

Ultimately General Manager Chris Antonetti decided against it and the Tribe stuck with their in-house candidates. 

The result is Fausto Carmona taking the ball on opening day, with Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Tomlin and Mitch Talbot following him.

The one issue is that all five pitchers are right-handed, so did Acta get it right?

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Handling the Hot Corner: Jack Hannahan Named Cleveland Indians Third Baseman

His career was at a crossroads, if not a dead end. He never approached the plate or heard his name called over the loudspeakers in a big league ballpark in 2010.

Jack Hannahan, after spending four less than stellar years in Seattle and Oakland, spent 2010 between the Mariners’ and Red Sox‘s Triple-A affiliates. 

Hannahan then accepted a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians, with an invitation to spring training due to the uncertainty in the Tribe’s infield. In the end, it paid off as Hannahan was named the Indians‘ opening day third baseman.

Despite Hannahan’s great spring—he batted .375 with a .464 on-base percentage—there was a lot more that factored into manager Manny Acta‘s decision.

The third base competition was a four man race heading into spring training, between Hannahan, Jason Donald, Jayson Nix and Luis Valbuena.

In addition to those four, Cleveland fans were also clamoring for top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall to man the hot corner on opening day, and Jared Goedert was coming off a huge year at Triple-A Columbus.

Acta made it clear early that Chisenhall was going to start the year at Triple-A and Goedert suffered a right oblique strain early, all but ruining his chances. As Nix and Valbuena struggled through the month, Donald seemed likely to acquire the starting spot. Then he broke his left hand and would probably have to start the season on the DL.

That left Hannahan, who was signed mostly for his glove, but his newly refined shortened swing has shown the potential for him to raise his .224 lifetime batting average.

“I struggled a little bit, for at least a year and a half, and now I’m trying to really get back to the type of hitter that I am. It’s just shortening my swing down, driving the ball the other way,” he said.

Even if Hannahan hits as well once the season starts, there’s only one thing Acta told him he needed to do to keep his spot in the lineup daily.

“Just be the good defensive player you are and have quality at-bats,” Acta told him.

The 31-year-old vet doesn’t need to hit the ball out of the park consistently for Cleveland to take another step forward towards contention in 2011, he just needs to help the Tribe’s pitchers who induce a lot of ground balls. Hannahan has always been considered an above-average defender, and that asset will be given a warm welcome at Progressive Field, which the Indians have not had in a while.

Despite entering camp with very little to no expectations, Hannahan has been a pleasant surprise for the Tribe thus far, and has earned himself a return to the majors after his one year hiatus.

Finally knowing where his future will take him, Hannahan can relax.

“It’s just a real sense of relief,” he said.

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Hope in Cleveland? Five Players Who Could Step Up For Tribe in 2011

Its no secret that the Cleveland Indians have some work ahead of them in the rebuilding process. But with such a deep farm system and many former All-Stars being dealt, Tribe fans are anxious to see something come from the plethora of young talent the Indians are supposed to have.

The Minnesota Twins have become more of a large-market team with a new stadium and the ability to keep their talent around, while the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have spent a lot of money in the offseason to make a once seemingly winnable AL Central a very formidable one. 

Heck, even the Royals made a splash by dealing Zack Greinke for a good haul of prospects to add to their strong farm system. Yet the Tribe has decided to rely on in house options to start contending, but time is running out.

There are young players such as Carlos Santana with flashes of greatness in 2010, but there are many more players in Cleveland, young and old, who need to have good years in 2011 to try and prove the theory wrong that God hates Cleveland.

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