An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
In the first half of the season, Peralta committed 13 errors at short. He was able to temper that ugly stat with a 41-game errorless streak that lasted from July 9 to Aug. 30, and his season total of 16 errors was actually three shy of his total in '05.But errors aren't necessarily what concern the Indians when it comes to Peralta's defensive play. He's adequately sure-handed on the routine balls he gets to. It's the balls he doesn't get to that stand out. Peralta's limited range from side to side -- brought on, no doubt, by his big frame -- prevented him from nabbing some ground-ball singles that probably could have been outs, and that proved a tremendous burden on the pitching staff. "Last year, I felt like I needed to work more with my legs," Peralta said. "I didn't feel as strong last year as I did in 2005." When Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge sat Peralta down for his end-of-season review last September, they laid out a list of offseason demands and expectations. For one, they wanted to see Peralta amplify his workout routine to strengthen his leg muscles. They also wanted him to be more proactive in keeping his weight in check. And they wanted him to work with infield coach Luis Rivera on his fielding fundamentals in the Dominican Republic before reporting to Spring Training. Upon first glance, Peralta, who married the former Molly Urig in January, doesn't look any different now than he did in '06. But in the field during the Tribe's slate of Grapefruit League games, his motion and agility is noticeably improved. "I've been working hard every day," he said. "I feel a little different. My legs feel strong, and I can go hard to my left. It's good when your legs are strong, because you feel great in the field." He can see great, too. By the tail end of last season, Peralta, who had been diagnosed with near-sightedness a year ago, was privately complaining that he couldn't read the catcher's signs from his position and was having trouble picking up the seams of the ball during night games. He began wearing contact lenses that had been prescribed for him in the spring, but they irritated his eyes. With Lasik surgery having addressed that problem, Peralta is hoping he'll see himself put together a bounceback year. As for what the Indians have seen this spring, well, so far, so good. "He came in here prepared, and he came in with some urgency and determination," Shapiro said. "Everything we've seen from the moment he got here has been very positive. If he can sustain the attitude and approach he has now, he'll go a long way toward helping us win this year." Wedge, who was uncharacteristically critical of Peralta quite often last season, has gone out of his way this spring to praise the youngster's potential. He's even accepted some of the blame for Peralta's struggles, saying he shouldn't have put him in such a high-pressure portion of the lineup. "Arguably, last year will be the most important year of his career, when he looks back 10 or 15 years from now," Wedge said of Peralta, who will initially bat seventh in the order this season. "What he's done beyond [the season] is the most important part. What he did this winter -- mentally, physically and fundamentally -- is what we wanted him to do. He's right on line, and I'm excited for him." Consider that a glass-half-full view.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.