For all their pitching woes, the Indians did bring one great arm to training camp. Unfortunately for the Tribe, it belonged to pitching instructor Bob Feller, who at 67 is a bit over the mound. Then again, Feller may be young enough to help this club in long relief.
Last year, Cleveland had the worst ERA, 4.91, in its 85-year history. No big league team has had such a rank ERA since the '62 Mets, and they were hardly big league. The Indians managed this despite having Bert Blyleven for two-thirds of the season.
The club's DHs—designated hittees—are Neal Heaton and Ken Schrom. "The combination of these two guys will outweigh having one good Blyleven," says pitching coach Jack Aker, fatuously. Heaton was 9-17 last year with a 4.90 ERA; Schrom was 9-12 and 4.99. No wonder the Indians claimed Phil Niekro.
Manager Pat Corrales and his staff looked at 23 pitchers this spring. Says general manager Joe Klein, " 'From quantity comes quality.' That's from Mr. Rickey, circa 1930." Easy for Branch Rickey to say; in 1930 Rickey was vice-president of the pennant-winning Cardinals, who had three future Hail of Famers (Burleigh Grimes, Jesse Haines and Dizzy Dean) on their roster.
What will help the Indian staff more than their spring casting call is the return of short reliever Ernie Camacho, who was sidelined with elbow problems for all but two games last year. The year before, Camacho saved a club-record 23 games. The Indians have a surprisingly solid lineup. They were fourth in the league in hitting last season and will improve if they get full seasons from right-fielder Joe Carter and DH Andre Thornton, both of whom were hampered by early season injuries in '85, and leftfielder Mel Hall, who didn't play after a car accident in May.
Cleveland almost had another key Injun injured this winter: Brett Butler, who scored 106 runs last year. In January, a racquetball opponent smashed Butler in the face. Butler spent five days in the hospital with a hemorrhaged right eye. Miraculously, the vision in his eye tested better after the accident.
The Indians just wish they had had the foresight to hold on to Rick Sutcliffe and Dennis Eckersley and Steve Farr and John Denny and Blyleven and....
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
In 36 career at bats with bases full, he has 22 hits (.611) and a slugging avg. of 1.000.
First Tribe second-sacker with double digits in HRs since Eddie Leon had 10 in '70.
Led majors with 244 opportunities to drive in runners from scoring position.
Look, a record is a record: the only player in the majors to start in 100 losing games in '85.
First Indian player since Al Smith (1954-55) to score 100 runs in two consecutive years.
Achieved a perverse sort of perfection by starting at least once in all nine batting spots.
Needs 30 HRs to break Earl Averill's team record of 226.
Opposition hit 65 points higher (.328-.263) with the bases empty than with runners on.
Allowed one HR every 5.7 innings, 2nd worst average among AL pitchers.
Ranked 8th in AL with 6.10 strikeouts per nine innings.