Pronk, fifth starter top Tribe's questions

Pronk, fifth starter top Tribe's questions

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. How does Travis Hafner look?
Did the arthroscopic surgery and ensuing rehab bring the strength in his shoulder back to an acceptable level, and can Pronk not only play multiple days in a row but also find the form that made him such a feared hitter in 2008? Those questions will be major points of focus in camp.

2. Who will win the fifth starting spot?
Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes are expected to take the first four spots, with young left-handers Aaron Laffey, Dave Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Zach Jackson and Scott Lewis all expected to duke it out for the last spot. Laffey might have the upper hand, given the positives he displayed early in '08.

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3. What does the future hold for Josh Barfield and Ryan Garko?
Both infielders will be tried in the outfield to test their versatility. Barfield will be vying for the 25th spot on the active roster as a utility player, while Garko is fighting for his starting spot at first. Garko will probably lose some playing time to Victor Martinez, who will move to first on the days Kelly Shoppach starts.

2008 record
81-81, third in the AL Central

Projected batting order
1. CF Grady Sizemore:
  .268 BA, .374 OBP, .502 SLG, 33 HR, 90 RBI in 2008
2. 3B Mark DeRosa:
  .285 BA, .376 OBP, .481 SLG, 21 HR, 87 RBI in 2008
3. DH Travis Hafner:
  .197 BA, .305 OBP, .323 SLG, 5 HR, 24 RBI in 2008
4. C Victor Martinez:
  .278 BA, .337 OBP, .365 SLG, 2 HR, 35 RBI in 2008
5. SS Jhonny Peralta:
  .276 BA, .331 OBP, .473 SLG, 23 HR, 89 RBI in 2008
6. RF Shin-Soo Choo:
  .309 BA, .397 OBP, .549 SLG, 14 HR, 66 RBI in 2008
7. LF Ben Francisco:
  .266 BA, .332 OBP, .438 SLG, 15 HR, 54 RBI in 2008
8. C Kelly Shoppach:
  .261 BA, .348 OBP, .517 SLG, 21 HR, 55 RBI in 2008
9. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera:
  .259 BA, .346 OBP, .366 SLG, 6 HR, 47 RBI in 2008

Projected rotation
1. Cliff Lee, 22-3, 2.54 ERA in 2008
2. Fausto Carmona, 8-7, 5.44 in 2008
3. Carl Pavano, 4-2, 5.77 in 2008
4. Anthony Reyes, 2-1, 1.83 in 2008
5. Aaron Laffey, 5-7, 4.23 in 2008

Projected bullpen
Closer: Kerry Wood, 34/40 saves, 3.26 ERA in 2008
RH setup man: Jensen Lewis, 3.82 ERA in 2008
LH setup man: Rafael Perez, 3.54 ERA in 2008

The new guys
RHP Kerry Wood: Once a starting phenom, before a multitude of injuries derailed his career with the Cubs, Wood got back on track with a move to relief work in 2007, and he was a dominant ninth-inning arm for Chicago in '08. Wood was signed to a two-year, free-agent contract with a vesting option for 2011.

3B Mark DeRosa: Another Cubs import, DeRosa will make the move from second base to third -- a position he claims is his best. DeRosa's defensive versatility will be an asset on the field, where he can help out anywhere in the infield and in the corner outfield spots, and his plate discipline should help in the No. 2 spot of the batting order.

RHP Carl Pavano: The Indians are taking a chance on Pavano after his four injury riddled seasons with the Yankees. The hope is that he can stay healthy and find the form that made him an 18-game winner with the Marlins in 2004. Pavano is assured a spot in the starting rotation.

RHP Joe Smith: Acquired from the Mets, Smith is a right-handed specialist with a sidearm delivery. He could play a significant role in the back end of the bullpen

Prospects to watch
OF Matt LaPorta: As the key acquisition in last year's trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, LaPorta instantly commands the attention of fans. Coming off a whirlwind 2008, he will begin '09 at Triple-A Columbus and look to rebound from what was an uneven early showing in the organization at Double-A Akron and in winter ball.

OF Michael Brantley: The player to be named in the Sabathia swap, Brantley instantly becomes one of the Indians' more intriguing prospects. He is a disciplined hitter with speed on the basepaths and defensive aplomb in the outfield. He could help out this year.

IF Luis Valbuena: Acquired from the Mariners, Valbuena will likely begin the season at second base at Triple-A Columbus, though he could be with the big league club by season's end. As a left-handed hitter, he's a nice complement to the Indians' infield.

LHP Dave Huff: After an outstanding season with Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo, Huff, a sandwich selection in the 2008 Draft, has positioned himself to contend for a job in the Tribe's starting rotation.

On the rebound
DH Travis Hafner: Shoulder weakness limited the man known as Pronk to 57 games and a decidedly unimpressive showing at the plate in '08. Coming off arthroscopic surgery, he'll be slightly behind in Spring Training camp, but the Indians still expect him to make an impact in the middle of the lineup this season.

C Victor Martinez: Martinez had surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow, and it cost him two and a half months of the '08 season. He might see more time at first base this season to ease the stress on his body and allow Shoppach to get more action behind the plate.

RHP Adam Miller: The Tribe's oft-injured top pitching prospect is making the move to the bullpen after finger surgery limited him to six starts at Buffalo last year. This could be the year he makes his first Major League impact, as he has the raw stuff to compete in the back end of a bullpen.

RHP Anthony Reyes: Shut down with one month remaining in the '08 season because of elbow soreness, Reyes completed a rest and rehab program and will have a spot in the rotation, if healthy.

2B Josh Barfield: After finger surgery held him out of action for two and a half months in '08, Barfield should be back and healthy and ready to compete for a spot on the Indians' bench.

RHP Rafael Betancourt: He went from one of the game's most dominant setup men in '07 to an unreliable option in '08.

RHP Fausto Carmona: He struggled with his control and missed time with a hip strain last season and never got on track. The Indians need him to once again find the form of a No. 2 starter.

Long gone
OF Franklin Gutierrez: Dealt to the Mariners in the three-team trade that brought Smith and Valbuena aboard, Gutierrez will get a chance to once again be an everyday outfielder in Seattle. He became expendable in the Indians' crowded outfield.

RHP Tom Mastny: At his request, Mastny saw his contract sold to Japan. He would have had to fight for a bullpen job in Spring Training, whereas he'll have a guaranteed spot with the Yokohama BayStars.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.