Notes: Early rotation mixes up looks

Notes: Tribe sets rotation to orbit around

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Indians have a rotation.

Well, that's nothing new. They've known the pitchers who will comprise the rotation for months now.

The news update, then, is that the Indians have an order for that rotation.

Barring injuries, here is how it will shake out at the outset of the season:

Left-hander C.C. Sabathia, as previously announced, will pitch the season opener on April 2 in Chicago, and right-hander Jake Westbrook and left-hander Cliff Lee will finish up the three-game series with the Sox on April 4 and 5, respectively.

Upon the club's return to Jacobs Field, veteran right-hander Paul Byrd will get his first start in an Indians uniform in the April 7 home opener against the Twins. Sabathia will get his second turn the following day, and newly acquired right-hander Jason Johnson will wrap up that three-game set by starting April 9.

The idea behind that order is that the Indians won't give the White Sox or Twins looks at consecutive lefties or consecutive sinkerballers in Westbrook and Johnson.

"We have different looks with our starting pitchers," manager Eric Wedge said. "We want to utilize that."

The Indians have three off-days in the season's first nine days, so forming the rotation was a bit tricky, pitching coach Carl Willis said.

"This is the best way to keep everyone from getting too much rest and to get everyone their turn," Willis said.

The Tribe knows it's unrealistic to expect each of its starters to notch 30 outings this season, as was the case a year ago. But Willis is confident of the mix he has to work with.

"It has the potential to be as good or better [than last year's rotation]," he said. "If we do our jobs, we should be as good. The results are going to be there, because we have that type of ability."

Sabathia agreed.

"I'm excited about the rotation," he said. "Jason's looked good, and you know what you're going to get from Paul Byrd. For me to put a whole season together would be big. We just have to stay consistent with each pitch in each game and be ahead of every situation."

Looking sharp: Bob Wickman doesn't appear to have any rust to work off this spring.

The right-hander worked another perfect inning Sunday against the Yankees. He's now made three appearances lasting an inning each and hasn't given up so much as a hit or walk.

spring training 2006
News and features:
• Patience paid off for Westbrook:  350K
• Sizemore hasn't changed approach:  350K
• Sabathia ready for Opening Day:  350K
• Travis Hafner on goals for '06:  350K
• Aaron Boone on upcoming season:  350K
• Ryan Garko on switch to first:  350K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

"He's looked great," Wedge said. "He's a pro. He knows what he needs to do to get ready."

Working on the side: The Tribe held a brief, three-inning intrasquad game Sunday morning, with Byrd and prospect Jake Dittler pitching.

"Paul's command was better," Wedge said. "He's making the ball do what he wants it to do."

The game was played with Major League hitters and Minor League fielders.

Right on schedule: Guillermo Mota has discovered one benefit of coming off an injury. He knows exactly when to expect to pitch this spring.

The Indians gave Mota his own personal calendar to keep track of his schedule.

"I've never had that before," Mota said. "It's good."

Mota, who had elbow and shoulder problems while with the Marlins last season, looked pretty good pitching a scoreless inning Sunday. He said he felt good, too.

"I threw the ball more in the zone," he said. "I had more location."

Fine at first: Wedge said he's seen improvement in Travis Hafner's first base skills.

A lingering elbow injury kept Hafner from playing more than one game at first last season. General manager Mark Shapiro has said he'd like to see Hafner play 25 to 30 games there this season.

Wedge said it won't be a predetermined number of starts at the position.

"We'll see how it plays out," he said. "We'll work off the team. He looks more comfortable there."

Tribe tidbits: The Indians have won 10 of their first 13 Grapefruit League games, though their play in the field has been sloppy even by spring standards. The club committed 24 errors in those 13 games. ... Last year's Double-A Akron Aeros were honored before Sunday's game. The team won the 2005 Eastern League championship. Left-hander Jeremy Sowers and first baseman Ryan Mulhern were individually recognized for winning the organization's Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year awards, respectively.

On deck: The Tribe will stay home to face the Devil Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET Monday. Right-hander Fausto Carmona will start opposite left-hander Scott Kazmir. Bob Wickman, Scott Sauerbeck, Kaz Tadano, Brian Slocum and Andrew Brown are also scheduled to throw for the Indians.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.