Three interstate highways dissect the city of Cleveland, but not, as some thought last season, Cleveland Stadium. Indians Chief Scout Dan Carnevale was quoted as saying, "We had a hole at second base you could drive a truck through." Club President Gabe Paul went out and got a truck stop, trading Outfielder Von Hayes to Philadelphia for veteran Second Baseman Manny Trillo and rookie Shortstop Julio Franco, as well as Leftfielder George Vukovich and two other prospects. Trillo, who last year fielded a major league-record 479 consecutive chances without an error, was at first unhappy about the deal, but after talking with Outfielder Bake McBride, who made the same move a year ago, Trillo recanted. "I probably made a mistake saying I don't want to play in Cleveland," he says. "You know how it is. You come from a contender to a team that always finishes fifth or sixth. I realize things can change."
But not always for the better. Just ask Bert Blyleven, who, until he came to Cleveland in 1981, had never suffered arm trouble in his previous 11 major league seasons. By May 5 last year he was undergoing surgery to repair muscle tears in his right elbow. Or ask McBride, whose season ended abruptly last May when he was hitting .365. The problem was the solution: The cleaning solution for his contact lenses gave him virulent conjunctivitis. Or ask Manager Mike Ferraro, who, two months after being hired by Cleveland, found out that he had a cancerous left kidney. Two weeks after the kidney was removed he was in Tucson for spring training. "It doesn't bother me that I lost my kidney as much as it does that I lost my appetite," Ferraro, 38, said in early March.
But things are looking up. The best news is that Ferraro won't miss any games. Also, McBride has switched lens solutions, and he feels last season's rest will help his troublesome knees. Finally, Blyleven thinks he has regained the form that has helped him win 169 games. He certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor. When he broke his left arm in October, while wetting down the roof of his Villa Park, Calif. home because of threatening brush fires, he said, "I knew I'd never win the Cy Young Award, so I was trying to be Fireman of the Year."
Pitching Coach Don McMahon worked his staff particularly hard during spring training. "It's tough to tell whether we're getting ready for the '83 baseball season or the bleeping '84 Olympics," says Rick Sutcliffe, who led the league in '82 with a 2.96 ERA. Last year seemed like a marathon for Third Baseman Toby Harrah, Centerfielder Rick Manning and Designated Hitter Andre Thornton, who played close to 160 games each and hit a combined .224 after Sept. 1. The depth that the Indians received in the Phillies trade should help keep them and their batting averages strong.
On the plus side, Indian base stealers had 69% success; Reliever Dan Spillner locked up 21 of 25 savable games; and Toby Harrah had a .400 on-base average. On the debit side, the rest of the bullpen had nine saves; the Tribe had a league-low 129 DPs and Cleveland set a league record for men left on base—7.8 a game. The bottom line: Despite high hopes, it was not a contender.