Tweaks, not a rebuild, on Tribe's mind

Tweaks, not a rebuild, on Tribe's mind

MINNEAPOLIS -- One line of thinking says the Indians' roster moves Friday, including a parting of ways with former closer Joe Borowski, will be the first of many to dismantle a disappointing roster. But general manager Mark Shapiro, in a conference call with media Friday, said the transactions were not the start of a complete rebuild.

"No, not at all," Shapiro said. "I think most importantly we have to get back [Victor] Martinez, [Travis] Hafner, [Fausto] Carmona, and then halfway through next season, [Jake] Westbrook. I think we need to tweak. But if you look where Chicago and Minnesota were a year ago, I think we are as well positioned if not better than they were. ... Getting back those injured players, and getting them healthy, will be bigger than anything we do externally. And then we will continue to attempt to find ways to supplement and add to our team externally."

Shapiro said the club has not made a list of players it wishes to trade. He said the team will be "creative" and "open-minded" to anything that will "ensure that we are a contending team next year."

The most talked about trade possibility on the team, and in the Majors, is starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

"That's our No. 1 starter, and until that changes otherwise, the only thing I would say publicly about it is we are fortunate to have him here," Shapiro said, declining to comment on whether the team has talked about a contract extension recently with the star lefty.

Both Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge acknowledged a dual goal over the rest of the season: the club will try to win as many games as possible while also evaluating and developing players with an eye towards 2009.

"You come to the ballpark looking to win a ballgame," Wedge said. "It's never over until you're done playing baseball. Obviously we are in a different spot than we ever anticipated being in, but it doesn't always work out the way you want it to."

Shapiro doesn't think the uncertainty surrounding injured designated hitter Travis Hafner will affect the transactions the team makes in the next month. There are no guarantees after that, though.

"If that uncertainty carries into the offseason, then it has a dramatic effect on our ability to build this team," Shapiro said.

Seeing the White Sox and Twins, the clubs that finished fourth and third last year, respectively, now atop the American League Central gives the Indians hope that a quick and complete turnaround could come next year.

"I believe that if our guys hadn't gotten hurt, even with the disappointment of the bullpen and the supporting performances, we would still be in the hunt right now," Shapiro said. "Maybe not in first place, but we'd still be very much facing the possibility of winning our division."

The Tribe's schedule does not get any easier before the All-Star break. After dropping Friday's series opener against the Indians, Cleveland will play two more at the Metrodome before heading to Detroit for a two-game set. The Indians will then have a four-game series against the Rays in Cleveland immediately preceding the break.

Minnesota, Detroit and Tampa Bay are all amongst the Majors' hottest teams. The Rays currently lead the AL East.

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Aaron Laffey (4-5, 3.24 ERA)
Constantly having a knack to find trouble but somehow being able to escape it this season, the left-handed Laffey finally got punished in his last start. Laffey's ability to get crucial double-play balls has been his way out of sticky situations, but he couldn't do it Sunday. The Reds erupted for a five-run fifth inning to give the rookie his fifth loss of the season. In his only start against the Twins this season, Laffey was the benefactor of a 12-run outburst from the Indians' lineup, but wasn't too shabby himself, allowing just one run in six innings of work.

MIN: RHP Kevin Slowey (5-6, 3.47 ERA)
Slowey continues to demonstrate why he was so coveted by other teams during his rapid ascent through the Twins' Minor League system. The right-hander pitched his first career shutout on Sunday against the Brewers, holding Milwaukee to just three hits while striking out eight batters and not issuing a single walk. It was the fourth straight quality start for Slowey, who is 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA over that span. Next up for Slowey will be his first start of the season against Cleveland.

Shapiro on center fielder Grady Sizemore's position in the batting lineup: "Where he hits in the lineup is Eric's decision. If I felt strongly that he wasn't hitting in the right spot, I would bring that to Eric, but I do not feel that way." ... Both Wedge and Shapiro said Asdrubal Cabrera's actions that led to an ejection from Wednesday's game with Triple-A Buffalo were overblown. Said Shapiro: "I would fully expect him to be back here this season. ... Shapiro on young third baseman Andy Marte: "I'd like to think at some point that an opportunity [will present] itself to give him regular at-bats." ... Part of the Indians' continued evaluations will be focused on struggling first baseman Ryan Garko (batting .243). "We have to figure out what Ryan Garko is going to be," Shapiro said.

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Up next
• Sunday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 11-1, 2.26) at Twins (Glen Perkins, 4-2, 4.31), 2:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 6-8, 3.83) at Tigers (Eddie Bonine, 2-1, 4.30), 7:05 p.m. ET

Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.