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Indians Team Health Report 2011

Athletic Trainers are there to keep talent on the field. It's really that simple. The point of a medical staff is to prevent the injuries they can, reduce the lost time when they can't, and to manage things in between as best as possible. Lonnie Soloff's crew has been among the best, winning a Dick Martin Award a few years back and being raided for talent as well. The problem this year is that there's just not that much talent to keep on the field. The Indians stood pat to a degree that frankly stuns me. I know a lot of the smart guys in that front office and think the world of them, but unless they know something that the rest of the baseball world doesn't, this is another disappointing team in a winnable division. They'll get Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore back to start the season, but this team is down on talent and hasn't yet rebuilt the system that generated so much star power over the past decade. When Cliff Lee left, he didn't quite turn out the lights, but he ended an era. We'll see if Chris Antonetti can start a new one.

(HEAD TRAINER: Lonnie Soloff; FIVE YEAR RANK: 2; 2010 RANK: 3)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
 
GREEN LIGHT
1B Matt LaPorta
LaPorta is a perplexing green, given his health issues over the past couple seasons, including a serious hip injury. It's a combo of The System remaining unconvinced that LaPorta will hold the job due to low plate-appearance expectations, and the fact that there's plenty of options at first.

Also Green:
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Jayson Nix
RF Shin-Soo Choo
CL Chris Perez
 
YELLOW LIGHT
2B Jason Donald
Donald was rushed a bit to the majors, but you can't blame the Indians for wanting to show a return on Cliff Lee. Donald's finger issue was slow to heal and that's the biggest reason for this yellow. He's not that risky, but he's also just late-round filler at second base.

SP Justin Masterson
It's a parade of yellow and mediocrity after the risky-but-talented Carmona. Justin Masterson is a nice fifth starter, but there's little reason to get excited about him. The Indians didn't let his workload get too out of hand, but he's an innings sponge at best.

SP Mitch Talbot
Talbot ended last season with a sore shoulder and while he was able to pitch, being shut down in September is never a good sign. Talbot is another placeholder here, but for what, we just don't know.

SP Carlos Carrasco
Carrasco is another part of the Cliff Lee deal and seemed to prove why in the second half. He pushed his way up to the majors and pitched well. He went 190 combined innings, which should be his max this season -- fewer if possible. He's got some upside, at least, if the Indians can keep him healthy over the next couple seasons.

SP Josh Tomlin
Tomlin was a nice placeholder last season and could fill that role again this year. If given the innings load, Tomlin's value could be in keeping the load on Carrasco down and keeping the bullpen strong. Someone's got to carry that weight, so why not the guy who's got the least upside? Cruel? Maybe, but effective.
 
RED LIGHT
C Carlos Santana
Despite escaping serious injury on a brutal home plate collision, Santana's still young and still a catcher. Luckily, he's still very talented. Manny Acta understands Santana's need for protection and will likely spot Santana in at DH and first base occasionally to keep his potent bat in the lineup

LF Michael Brantley
Brantley could get called up, but couldn't stay healthy once he did. It was nothing serious in and of itself, but it's the kind of pattern (along with a lack of production) that says "not quite ready." If we see more injuries this year, it's the kind of pattern that says "Quad-A."

CF Grady Sizemore
First, if you're going to take naked pictures of yourself, cover your junk with a HUGE mug. Just sayin', Grady. Second, Grady needs a huge mug filled with some health and a dash of luck. He's had neither the past few seasons and will be trying to come back from microfracture surgery on his knee, something no other player has successfully done in MLB. The players that have had it have been older and much less athletic, so Sizemore does have a shot. There's a point in a draft where he becomes a nice value, but it's probably later or cheaper than you'd think.

DH Travis Hafner
To be red at DH means The System sees no way for a player to stay healthy. That's a safe bet with Hafner, who's never been the same once his shoulder became a problem. A half-season of production would be a step up. It's painful to think that Hafner might be one of the medical staff's successes, keeping him on the field more than most other teams could have.

SP Fausto Carmona
Carmona is the last power sinker pitcher left standing. Brandon Webb, Jeff Francis, and Chien-Ming Wang all threw it and all ended up visiting surgeons. Carmona's been up and down since his rookie breakout.

RP Rafael Perez
Perez hasn't been worked that hard, but he's been a starter in the Dominican Winter Leagues, so it's not like he's resting a lot either. He's lost some of his stuff the past couple years, which happens to a lot of relievers.
 
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