WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Indians' big-league rotation, barring injury, was set well before Spring Training camp opened, which is a rare enough feat for a club. Even rarer, the Triple-A rotation isn't far off. Sixth starter Fausto Carmona, top prospect Adam Miller and right-hander Brian Slocum are locks, and the remaining two spots will likely be filled from a group that includes left-handers Rafael Perez and Jason Stanford and right-hander Jeff Harris.
For now, the Indians have no interest in tinkering with Miller as a big-league reliever. They did so last year with Carmona and Slocum, but the plan this year is to leave those two stretched out as starters. "It would be easy for general manager) Mark (Shapiro) to put them on the Major League team (in the bullpen)," farm director Ross Atkins said. "But he's being proactive, because it allows for more starting depth in our organization and develops these guys into Major League starters down the road. Taking a guy and throwing him in a bullpen role is limiting his ultimate value and what he could possibly do for his family, as we've seen with some of the Major League contracts for starters." Perez is seen as a potential left-handed relief option for the Tribe this season. But in Buffalo, he would likely be a starter. "We feel like his development will progress in the right direction if he's starting," Atkins said. "Secondary pitches, controlling the running game, fielding his position ... he has a better chance of learning those things as a starter than as a reliever." Stanford was in the big-league rotation at the outset of the '04 season but has since undergone Tommy John elbow surgery, from which he didn't fully recover until last year. Harris has pitched in the Mariners' bullpen but is versatile enough to be used as a starter. On the move: Perez isn't the only lefty reliever the Indians are excited about. He's part of a three-man group that also includes Juan Lara and Tony Sipp. Perez and Lara made their big-league debuts with the Indians last season. Sipp, limited early in the year by an oblique strain, could very well do the same in '07. "When you talk about those three guys, it's all in the same sentence," manager Eric Wedge said. "They all have a pretty good chance to be a solid Major League pitcher for us." On the pine: The Indians eased first baseman Mike Aubrey into Grapefruit League action. Aubrey battled back and knee problems in '06 and played just 14 games between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. He got his first taste of game action this spring on Saturday, against the Tigers, backing up Ryan Garko.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.