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Indians deliver on offseason promise

Indians deliver on offseason promise

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CLEVELAND -- The "relentless" offseason promised by general manager Mark Shapiro has netted the Indians a new closer, a new third baseman, a new reliever and a promising middle-infield prospect.

Does the relentlessness stop there? The Tribe's budget will provide the answer.

With little more wiggle room on the payroll, the Indians would have to trade away a contract or two to make another impactful addition for 2009.

"The lion's share of our resources have been committed," Shapiro said. "If we do anything else, it's going to require a creative contract or some sense of subtraction [of payroll] before addition."

Spring Training camp opens at the Indians' new facility in Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 12, when pitchers and catchers report. The full squad shows up for work on Feb. 15, with the first full-squad workout taking place Feb. 17. The Tribe's first exhibition game at Goodyear Ballpark will be the Cactus League opener against the Giants on Feb. 25.

What the Indians would like to do, before that time, is add a veteran starter to support a rotation that currently has Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona as its locks and Dave Huff, Aaron Laffey, Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, Jeremy Sowers and Zach Jackson eligible to compete for the remaining spots. Jake Westbrook, coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, won't be ready until the second half of the season.

"I wasn't comfortable with the starting pitching from Day 1, and I'm still not comfortable with it," Shapiro said. "I'm comfortable we can field a rotation. I'd still like to add a veteran starter. I don't know if we've ever had the resources to do that, unless that was our primary move."

The Indians won't be players for a high-priced free agent like Jon Garland. Nor are they likely to bring back Paul Byrd. If the Indians are to do anything in the starting department -- and that's debatable -- they might have to take a chance on a reclamation project like Kris Benson or Carl Pavano.

In general, though, the Indians have already made the bulk of the noise they're likely to make this winter. They signed closer Kerry Wood to a two-year, $20.5 million contract with a vesting option for 2011. They traded outfielder Franklin Gutierrez in a three-team, 12-player swap that netted them right-handed reliever Joe Smith and middle-infield prospect Luis Valbuena, who might compete for a utility job in camp. And on New Year's Eve, the Tribe landed third baseman Mark DeRosa from the Cubs in exchange for a package of three Minor League arms, highlighted by reliever Jeff Stevens.

Hot Stove

It has, as promised, been a hectic offseason for the Indians, who have filled several needs within the framework of a strict budget.

"Going in, recognizing we weren't going to be able to address every need we felt we had, the goal was to address as many as possible in as impactful a way as we can," Shapiro said. "I think we've done that, and we're not done."

While other impactful moves aren't anticipated, the team will continue to look for potential non-roster Spring Training invitees to augment the organization's depth.

Before the Tribe heads to camp, the annual Press Tour will wind its way through various locations in the Ohio area. The tour begins Jan. 19, with dinners in Columbus, a to-be-determined Cleveland suburb and Sandusky. On Jan. 20, the tour will make dinner stops in Youngstown, Dover and Erie, Pa. On Jan. 21, there will be a lunch in Ashtabula, a lunch in Canton and a dinner in Mansfield. And the tour wraps up Jan. 22, with lunches in Elyria and Fostoria and dinners in Akron, Toledo and Medina.

Further details on the Press Tour, including player availability, will be released soon

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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