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Mailbag: In-house for Indians bullpen?

Mailbag: Tribe looking in-house for bullpen?

Would you be able to pull a Keith Foulke and turn your back on $5 million? I've given this question a good, solid three seconds of thought and decided I simply couldn't do it.

According to my research, $5 million is a lot of money -- nearly double my annual salary with MLB.com. Just look at what it can buy you:
• 5.05 million junior cheeseburgers deluxe at Wendy's
• 5 million $1 bills
• A 357,654-year subscription to Reader's Digest
• The complete collection of Star Trek DVDs (the original series, the movies, "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" AND "Voyager ... um, not that I'd know anything about this kind of thing)
• Three full tanks of gas

We're talking some serious cash here. And Foulke, in a decision you have to respect, turned it down because he didn't want to let down his teammates or the Indians organization by getting hurt.

Then again, to collect the cash, Foulke would have had to fly to Florida and rent one of these posh Winter Haven condominiums for Spring Training, so it's probably a wash. Anyway, let's get to your questions ...

With Foulke retiring, will the Indians pursue other free-agent options? What looks like the most likely move?
-- Kevin L., Columbus, Ohio

For now, the Indians won't move at all. General manager Mark Shapiro said he'll instruct his scouts to take a good, long look at some relievers who might be available in the trade department, but the main focus, at this point, is to make a fair, objective evaluation of Matt Miller and such young, in-house arms as Tom Mastny, Juan Lara, Rafael Perez and Ed Mujica.

The Indians might decide they're still comfortable with that depth, regardless of the absence of Foulke. If Miller is healthy and shows signs that he can be as effective as he was in '04 and the first half of '05, he's on the club. Mastny has an outside shot of sneaking onto the Opening Day roster, based on his performance at the end of last year.

That being said, if the Tribe does want to explore trade options, there could be plenty available. The Cardinals have a glut of relievers and might be willing to deal left-hander Ricardo Rincon, and the Rangers are in the same boat and might move Akinori Otsuka, Scott Feldman or Joaquin Benoit. Both of those clubs will be looking for starting pitching, though.

Regarding Foulke's retirement, I think the Indians should get back the draft pick they forfeited to the Red Sox. Foulke didn't even pitch, and now the Red Sox get free compensation. I demand that MLB and Bud Selig investigate this matter.
-- James B.

I got a surprising number of e-mails in the wake of Foulke's announcement asking whether the club can get its draft pick back, and this was by far the most entertaining. Well, rest easy, James. The club didn't forfeit a draft pick for the signing of Foulke, so no worries there. I guess Bud will have to find something else to investigate.

In years past, former players such as Cory Snyder, Ellis Burks, Jason Bere and Travis Fryman were in camp helping out. Will there be any former players helping out this year in Winter Haven?
-- Mike P., South Euclid, Ohio

Yes, Fryman, Bere and Burks will all be back again this year to help out, as will Robby Thompson and Tim Belcher. Fryman will be a special guest, while Thompson, Belcher, Bere and Burks work for the club as special assistants to baseball operations.

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Question:

It's never too early for a little game called over/under. Here are the lines: Peralta +/- .275 BA, Sizemore +/- 150 strikeouts and Sowers +/- 13 wins. It would be a feat to hit this parlay in Spring Training. Golf is on me if you can pick 'em.
-- Robert W.

I'll give it a shot. I'll say over on Peralta, who should have a bounce-back year at the plate, though that one could very well be even.

I'll go under on Sizemore. He struck out 153 times last year, and I think he'll only improve against left-handers, who struck him out roughly once every four at-bats last season.

And I'll go under on Sowers. The league will make some adjustments to him, and there are still some question marks about his supporting cast in the infield.

What has become of Tim Laker? Has he signed with a team yet?
-- Vince F.

Laker's playing days are done. But for those who missed it, he has joined the Indians' Minor League staff as the manager of the Class A short-season team in Mahoning Valley. The Tribe was always appreciative of Laker's leadership qualities both behind the plate and in the clubhouse.

Why don't the Indians emphasize and instruct their pitchers to keep baserunners close to the base? This would not only help their defense in the infield, it would help their catchers throw out runners.
-- John Z.

Your idea is brilliant in its simplicity, John. But having been on those back fields of Chain of Lakes Park every day during Spring Training the past two years, it's my unfortunate duty to inform you that the Indians -- believe it or not -- actually do school their pitchers in such practices. Contrary to what we see play out on the field once the season starts, this has not been an overlooked area of instruction.

That's where the frustration lies. Manager Eric Wedge said the other day that controlling the running game too often gets overlooked in the lower levels of baseball. By the time pitchers get to the professional ranks, they are not accustomed to paying such mind to baserunners. Or, just as ineffective, they do not know how to hold the ball or vary their looks to first to keep runners in check.

So the coaches will keep circling this as an area that needs improvement, hoping their lessons sink in, because you're correct, John, in your belief that the pitchers can have a great impact in how Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach are in throwing out the opposition.

And, finally ...

You'll have to tell us what lame excuses for movies they're playing this year down in Winter Haven. That way, every reader of the mailbag can try their very hardest to make a connection between the lame movie and the current Tribe situation. Like last year, when we had a dying bullpen, and lame movies had dead men parading as party hosts.
-- Ben W., Medina, Ohio

This looks suspiciously like a "Weekend at Bernie's 2" reference to me. So for those scoring at home and holding me to my promise of no more than one "Bernie's" reference per month, we've reached our February quota.

Well, to answer your question, Ben, I'm staying in a different condo this spring, so I no longer have access to the 7,829 movie channels I had a year ago. My current cable setup only affords me a measly 23 stations, and the lone movie channel is broadcast entirely in Spanish. The other day, "Free Willy" was being shown in Espanol. So, if you can find some way to tie that into the '07 Indians, feel free.

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

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