Halfway through his final spring as Indians GM, Mark Shapiro still focusing on pitching

Halfway through his final spring as Indians GM, Mark Shapiro still focusing on pitching

Chuck Crow / The Plain Dealer In the early days of spring training, Indians GM Mark Shapiro (center) enjoyed a light moment with former Indian Aaron Boone and manager Manny Acta. In his final season as GM, the future Tribe president says pitching remains his top concern with the team. PHOENIX, Ariz. — Not much has changed for Mark Shapiro since the late-February announcement that he’d become president of the Indians at the end of the season. Until then, he’s still general manager.

Shapiro gets to Indians player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. almost every day at 4 a.m. to work out and start the day. He likes to keep his body clock on Cleveland time and he’s disciplined enough to do it.

«It’s been a relatively normal spring training,» said Shapiro. «[Preparing for his new job] won’t be a daily part of my life until we get to the regular season.»

The Indians are about one-third of the way through the Cactus League season. Shapiro’s main concern about his team is the same as it was in January.

«I still feel our season lies in the hands of our starting pitching, primarily Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson,» said Shapiro. «We need Jake to be healthy, which he looks to be so far. We need Fausto be better and make adjustments. We want to see if Masterson can take advantage of an opportunity and lock into a role from day one. We want to see if he can repeat his delivery over the course of 100 pitches.»

Chuck Crow / The Plain Dealer We need Jake (Westbrook) to be healthy, which he looks to be so far,» Shapiro said on Monday.

Mitch Talbot retires nine straight in Cleveland Indians’ 5-4 loss to Brewers | Box score Westbrook didn’t pitch last season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Carmona and Masterson were a combined 9-22.

Shapiro feels the Indians have enough bodies to fill the last two spots in the rotation with Aaron Laffey, Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco, Hector Rondon and Jeremy Sowers.

«But Westbrook, Carmona and Masterson are the linchpin to this team,» he said.

Shapiro’s track record for building bullpens is extreme. He’s been very good or very bad. The one thing he knows is that the rotation and pen are intertwined.

«Part of our bullpen’s success is dependent upon the rotation giving us close to six innings on most nights,» he said. «If we put too much of a burden on our bullpen that will take its toll.»

Here are some of Shapiro’s other impressions on his ninth and final spring training as general manager.

Manager Manny Acta’s first camp: «It’s been a well-run camp with an underlying sense of positive energy. It’s clear we’ve been out to compete in every game and we’re getting our work in and preparing for the season as well.»

DH Travis Hafner, after two years of right shoulder problems: «There’s a different look in his eye. He’s had a different approach at the plate that is more emblematic of his approach in the past. He’s seeing the ball longer.»

Halfway through his final spring as Indians GM, Mark Shapiro still focusing on pitching

Catcher Carlos Santana: «He’s shown his skills, but looks like a guy that needs to be finished off in the minor leagues. Santana is a guy who is exciting to watch. To see all the individual pieces and the ceiling within those pieces, but I’m almost relieved that he looks like a guy who needs to go back and get finished in the minors.»

Catchers Lou Marson and Wyatt Toregas: «I think Marson has had a good camp. He’s throwing the ball well. His receiving has gotten better. His approach to hit is the same all the time.

«Wyatt has been solid.»

Sowers, slowed by a strained left shoulder: «If he’s healthy, the only question is do we build him up in a rehab situation and make him a starting alternative before we decide [if he’d be a starter or reliever]. We’re not just going to stick him in the pen.»

Sowers is out of options and could open the season on the disabled list.

Who makes the club, Matt LaPorta or Michael Brantley? «LaPorta age-wise, profile-wise and experience-wise, is ready to compete at the big-league level. That’s where he has to go regardless of the adjustments he has to make. He has to be up here in order to get better.

«Michael Brantley is a different story. He’s 22. He had a good, solid, but not special Triple AAA season [last year]. There are benefits to him being here and benefits to him being finished off in the minor leagues.»

Russell Branyan, idled by a sore back after signing a one-year, $2 million deal: «We knew there would be rehab to finish when he came in. The pace would be undetermined until we got him going. I’m never completely surprised when dealing with rehabilitation. So I feel optimistic that he’ll be ready for the season.»

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