The hitters need help from the pitchers
Strong points: The Indians have a handful of excellent hitters (led the majors in hits last year). Strong-armed Woodie Held has good range at short, hits with power (23 HRs, 78 RBIs). Speedy Bubba Phillips is an able fielder at third and, after six light-hitting seasons in the majors, he suddenly found some muscle (18 HRs, 72 RBIs). First Baseman Tito Francona had his third solid year in a row (.301, 16 HRs, 85 RBIs), and Right Fielder Willie Kirkland produced a lot of runs (27 HRs, 95 RBIs) despite a low batting average. Stocky John Romano is the most powerful catcher Cleveland has ever had (.299, 21 HRs, 80 RBIs). Gene Green, the catcher-outfielder obtained from the Senators, will alternate with Francona at first. He also swings a heavy bat (.280, 18 HRs). Chuck Essegian in left has fair power (12 HRs, .289 in 166 ABs).
Weak spots: Indian pitching, best in the league for first half of '61, collapsed in second half, dragged the club into fifth place. Last year's most dependable man, Mudcat Grant (15-9), is in the Army. The present staff is potentially good but lacks a sure winner. Jim Perry has had one bad year, Gary Bell two in a row. Barry Latman won 13 last year but was hit hard. Indians haven't had a good left-handed starter since Herb Score's pre-injury days. The bullpen is thin but capably manned by fast bailer Frank Funk and lefty Bob Allen.
The big ifs: The trading of First Baseman Vic Power to the Twins for Pitcher Pedro Ramos this week further complicated Manager Mel McGaha's muddled infield. Francona at first is a converted outfielder and Green's life is endangered wherever he plays. Ken Aspromonte (.224) and ex-Cub Jerry Kindall (.242) are nothing more than journeyman second basemen. Rookie Ty Cline, a slap hitter with good speed and defensive ability, is supposed to make the fans forget last year's center fielder, Jimmy Piersall. If Cline doesn't make good, Bubba Phillips or Woodie Held (both former outfielders) may play center, opening the way for a new game of musical bases. Perry, an 18-game winner in 1960, lost 11 out of 14 decisions in the second half of last season, finished with a 10-17, 4.70 ERA record. He is the most talented Cleveland pitcher and must be a consistent winner if the team is to rise. Newcomer Ramos has never won more than 14 games (1958), and for the last four years has lost 18, 19, 18 and 20 games. But he is young (26) and worked hard this spring with the Twins to develop better breaking pitches.
Rookies and new faces: Sam McDowell and Cline are excellent rookie prospects. Lefthander McDowell, only 19, has a good fast ball and a dipping curve, but lacks control. Catcher Doc Edwards (.331 at Salt Lake City) and Outfielder Al Luplow (.302, 17 HRs at Salt Lake City) will be reserves. The most significant addition besides Ramos is aging (34) right-hander Dick Donovan, obtained from the Senators. He led the league with a 2.40 ERA last year and will help take the pressure off the Indians' young pitching staff this year.
OUTLOOK: Good years from Perry and Ramos and a creditable year from the rest of the pitching staff will boost Cleveland back into the scramble for a position behind the Yankees and Tigers.
Make-believe world of a ballplayer
In the summer a baseball player's phone rings constantly. Reporters ask him questions. Fans boo him when he drops a fly ball or goes nothing for four.
"I like to get away from all that when the season's over and go where it's quiet," said Woodie Held. "I've always liked to ride horses, so last year I bought this dude ranch in Dubois, Wyoming. We've got 600 acres near Yellowstone. It's beautiful country and it gets me away from all the noise and pressure and excitement of baseball. I ride out early in the morning sometimes and just smell the fresh air and look at the land and inspect the cattle.
"I guess you could say I play cowboys and Indians all year long."
Pete Ramos led the major leagues last season in losing games (20), giving up home runs (34) and owning cowboy suits (9). "I like that cowboy stuff," said the 26-year-old Cuban-born right-hander. "Most of the suits are brown, black or white. One day last year I am in Kansas City and I sec a beautiful one and walk right into the store and buy it for $150. I don't know how many cowboy shirts I got. Lots! I buy them in Los Angeles and Minneapolis. Got lots of boots, too, and good black and brown holsters. I got a .45 and a .38 special and a .44 magnum. Sometimes people let me go in the rodeos and sometimes I just put the suits on and walk around the house. Maybe, someday somebody wants to put me in the movies. This year, however, I don't want to talk so much about the cowboy suits. I want to talk about the pitching. This year they are going to call me 'Pete the Barber Ramos.' I'm gonna be like Sal Maglie—don't hurt nobody, just brush 'em back and get 'em out. I'm gonna be mean! The last few years I was too sweet. This winter I worked two months on my overhand curve ball and now it's good. And I only throw a fork ball three, four times last year. Now, aha! Nobody's gonna hit the long ball so much. Pete not gonna be so sweet. Gonna be the Barber."
The pitching coach of the Indians, Mel Harder, is considered one of the sharpest men in his trade.
"A pitcher," Harder said, "can sometimes throw too fine. He can be so busy looking for the corners and outsmarting the hitters that he can't get the ball over. That happened to Jim Perry last year. He tried to be too fine. Then he would get behind and have to come over with a good pitch. He can win again if he doesn't overpitch."
SWINGING FOR DISTANCE is Tito Francona, a strong .300 hitter who has been switched from the outfield to first base this season.