This club still has the best pitching in baseball. The middle-aged veterans have been bolstered with brilliant young Herb Score and the relief twins, Narleski and Mossi. And unlike the powerful but erratic Indians of old who went for the big inning and then depended on pitching to hold the line in front of a leaky defense, the 1956 team also has balance in the field. The big trade which sent Larry Doby to the White Sox for Chico Carrasquel and Jim Busby gave Manager Al Lopez more defense and may not have cost him much in hitting. Al Rosen and Vic Wertz hold down the corners of the infield chiefly on their merits as hitters, but Carrasquel and Bobby Avila are airtight down the middle; Al Smith and Busby form two parts of a strong outfield. Hurt by a flock of injuries last year, the Indians finished second, three games back. In 1956 they could win it all.
16 AL SMITH, RIGHT FIELD: Big and fast, Smith is a winning ballplayer who does everything well, and, at 26, is improving each year. He hit .306 in '55, runs the bases hard, has a fine arm, can also do a good job at third base. In short, a strong competitor with no real weaknesses.
21 BOB LEMON, PITCHER: The big right-hander still throws smoothly and easily at 35 and is just as much a threat to win 20 games as ever—he's missed it only twice in eight years. An outstanding control pitcher with a good variety of curves; a former infielder, he can also hit with real power and field his position well.
24 EARLY WYNN, PITCHER: Even older than Lemon (36), but no one has noticed him slowing up either. Big, fast and aggressive, he may be best clutch pitcher in baseball. His fast ball is still overpowering, his curve sharp.
27 HERB SCORE, PITCHER: At 22, the best young pitcher in the game; won 1955 Rookie of Year award with 245 strikeouts, and with added experience could win 25 or more games this year. No one has been able to touch him all spring.
Lopez has no worries about his pitching staff when behind the three above are such as Mike Garcia, Art Houtteman, Ray Narleski, Don Mossi and the aging but expert Bob Feller and Sal Maglie. Jim Hegan, backed up by Hal Naragon and Hank Foiles, assures the Indians of adequate catching if only fair hitting; Gene Woodling and Dale Mitchell are competent outfield help. Which still leaves some questions: whether Vic Wertz at first base is completely recovered from his 1955 polio attack; whether Bobby Avila can regain some of his 1954 batting skill (.341); whether Rosen, never a great fielder but once the terror of the league's pitchers, is really over the hill at 31.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
17 CHICO CARRASQUEL, SHORTSTOP: Once considered successor to Rizzuto as best shortstop in the league, but developed a tendency to let down. Lopez knows he can field and hit, hopes to convince Chico as well.
31 JIM BUSBY, CENTER FIELD: One of the best defensively and a blur on the bases; after fast start this spring, hopes to regain 1953-54 batting pace (.312 and .298 with Senators).
38 ROCCO COLAVITO, LEFT FIELD: Looks like a 22-year-old Joe DiMaggio and has some of the traits—speed, a fine arm, real love for the game and ability to hit the long ball.
Earl Averill Jr. faces tough job cracking Cleveland's catching lineup but has been impressive with power.
BOARD OF STRATEGY
10 AL LOPEZ, MANAGER: A nice-guy manager who has never finished below second in eight years of running his own ball club (three at Indianapolis, five at Cleveland). Says little, misses nothing, thinks he can beat the Yankees in 1956 with a little help.
Coaches are MEL HARDER (43), who hasn't had a sore-armed pitcher in years; signal-stealing TONY CUCCINELLO (44); rough-and-ready RED KRESS (42) and BILL LOBE (40).
10 AL LOPEZ