As big a failure as Wile E. Coyote in recent years, the Indians are going to make like roadrunners in 1984. "Speed is constant," general manager Phil Seghi says. "Speed doesn't go into slumps." As Earl Weaver might say, speed doesn't hit the long ball either, but neither does Cleveland, so what's there to lose? The Indians had only 86 homers in '83, the fewest in the majors. Manager Pat Corrales' newest coach knows something about stolen bases and homers: Bobby Bonds is one of only five men to have 30 of each in one year; Bonds, in fact, had five 30-30 seasons. "We're going to be like a track team that can play baseball," says Bonds.
Actually, the Indians may even look like a baseball team this year. Corrales, who replaced the canned Mike Ferraro on July 31, had them playing nearly .500 (29-32) ball the last two months of '83. And during the winter, Cleveland disposed of veterans Gorman Thomas, Lary Sorensen and Toby Harrah. "You have to be patient," Corrales says. Five '84 mainstays came in trades for Harrah (New York) and pitcher Len Barker (Atlanta). Rookie Brook Jacoby won the third-base job in spring training by leading the club in homers with (sigh!) two. Jacoby, centerfielder Brett Butler and starting pitcher Rick Behenna came from the Braves, while the Yankees sent over rookie leftfielder Otis Nixon (94 stolen bases at Columbus in '83) and reliever George Frazier.
Frazier, 29, who served in long relief for New York, is seen as the stopper. The top three starters are Bert Blyleven, Rick Sutcliffe and Neal Heaton. Sutcliffe wanted out of Cleveland after last year, but Corrales flew to see him at his Independence, Mo. home and persuaded him to stay. It's only a one-year reprieve: Sutcliffe can be a free agent after this season.
Blyleven, who turns 33 opening week, has won 176 games in his 14-year career but only nine in the last two injury-riddled seasons. He received treatment for his sore shoulder in the off-season from a Japanese acupressurist. "I must have a healthy year and a consistent year," Blyleven says. He threw 18 straight strikes in his first spring game, which is consistent enough for Corrales.
Cleveland's most consistent thumper remains DH Andre Thornton, who had only 17 homers and 77 RBIs last year. But even at his best he can't drive in everybody. Says Bonds, "Any time you steal a base, you're in a position to score." Corrales hopes Nixon, Butler, second baseman Tony Bernazard and shortstop Julio Franco, his 9-1-2-3 hitters, can steal 200 bases. The four teams that led their divisions in stealing in '83 all finished fourth. The Indians will probably just run in place—seventh, and last, once again.
Rick Sutcliffe was 17-11 in 1983 despite a 4.29 ERA and allowing 9.28 hits and 3.78 walks per nine innings. Neal Heaton's 11 wins were the most by an Indian rookie lefthander since Herb Score won 16 in 1955. Heaton was 4-2 with seven saves (in eight chances) as a reliever and 7-5 with three shutouts after he became a starter.