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New spring digs already a hit with Tribe

New spring digs already a hit with Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Officially, the Indians' new Spring Training home in Goodyear, Ariz., will be christened when pitchers and catchers report to camp on Feb. 12.

In all truth, though, the facility, which replaces the Tribe's old spring home in Winter Haven, Fla., has already been broken in.

Grady Sizemore, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco and Josh Barfield have been regulars in Goodyear thus far this winter, and they are heaping high praise on the new digs.

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"It's state of the art," Sizemore said. "It has a great weight room and batting cages. It's a nice upgrade from Winter Haven. Guys are starting to work out and get back in the swing of things."

And they are doing so under the guidance of Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator Jake Beiting, who is based in Goodyear. By having players train at the club's facility, the Indians are able to ensure those players stick to the programs assigned by strength and conditioning coach Tim Maxey throughout the winter, rather than using their own personal program or personal trainer.

In short, this arrangement keeps everybody on the same page.

"Usually, guys just scatter and everybody works out at a different place," Garko said. "You do one thing in the offseason, and then, once the season starts, you go through a different routine. But here, Tim sends out what we should be doing every day. I'm happy with it. That's going to be nice, going into the season."

Garko and Sizemore both have homes in the Phoenix area, so their activity at the Goodyear facility is a natural fit. General manager Mark Shapiro hopes that becomes an organizational trend.

"Over time, we'll have a lot of Minor Leaguers move out in that area and more staff guys live there," Shapiro said. "We have four or five guys out there now, and that number will be much higher in January."

It made logistical sense for Shoppach to rent a place near Goodyear this winter, because his wife, Jennifer, is due to give birth to a daughter in February, and Shoppach didn't want to have to fly back and forth from his home in Fort Myers, Fla., during Spring Training.

Shoppach is making the most of his new surroundings. He said he's been at the facility on a daily basis.

"I don't know what all the other guys do, but I know that it's nice to have the Indians' program there for you and everything you need for that," Shoppach said. "A lot of times, you go to a gym in your hometown and don't have certain medicine balls you'd like to do and that sort of thing. Hopefully this will turn into a year-round facility. It's very capable of doing that, and it's got everything an Indians player would need."

The 42,000-square-foot clubhouse facility, which includes a massive weight room, has wowed those who have already taken root.

"Everything there is first class," Garko said. "It seems like anything that you would need to make an ideal complex is there. You compare it to the facilities in Florida, and it's night and day. It's a joke how nice it is. We're pretty lucky to have this facility."

Pleasing the players was a major goal of moving into the $75 million complex. The Indians hope the Goodyear facility can help them woo free agents (newly signed closer Kerry Wood, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., already labeled it a "bonus") and rehab injured players.

"As a cold-weather team," Shapiro said, "the opportunity to have a 12-month-a-year training facility where we can rehabilitate and train in state-of-the-art environments -- that ultimately, over time, can be a competitive advantage. You have a greater ability to provide resources for your players to ensure consistency in training."

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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