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1 CLEVELAND INDIANS

March 12, 1996
March 12, 1996

Table of Contents
March 12, 1996

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Scouting Reports

1 CLEVELAND INDIANS

The Indians had a magical season in 1995, winning 100 games in a
144-game season and playing in the World Series for the first
time since 1954. But the magic went poof in October as Cleveland
fell to Atlanta four games to two, stymied by the stunning
starting pitching of the Braves.

This is an article from the March 12, 1996 issue

So during the off-season the Indians faced this question: How
could they defeat a team that had vexed them with starting
pitching?

Their solution: Sign one of the best starting pitchers of the
'90s themselves.

In the past five years, with the White Sox and the Yankees, Jack
McDowell led the American League in complete games three times
and tied for the lead in starts twice. Last season with the
Yankees McDowell finished first in the AL in complete games
(eight), third in innings pitched (217 2/3) and first in birds
flipped to booing hometown fans (one). In the late innings of
close games, batters hit just .168 against him. He was also 3-0
against the Tribe--thus prompting the Indians to dust off that
old adage, If you can't beat 'em, pay 'em $10 million to join
you.

McDowell will take much of the pressure off Cleveland's other
starters. Anchored by veterans Dennis Martinez and Orel
Hershiser, the Indians had the lowest ERA in the AL last season
(3.83); but Martinez, who has suffered from nagging aches and
pains for years, is 40, and Hershiser, while brilliant in the
postseason with a 4-1 mark, a 1.53 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 35
1/3 innings, is 37. The two aging aces combined for 354 1/3
innings last year and will welcome McDowell with open--and
tired--arms.

In his brilliant season of 1993 McDowell won 22 games and the Cy
Young Award for a White Sox team that had a fearsome offense.
Now, with an even more potent lineup behind him, he should
flourish and is a good bet to win another 20.

Of course, with Albert Belle batting cleanup, Roddy McDowall
could win 20. Belle, who deserved the American League MVP last
year but finished second to Boston's Mo Vaughn, simply had one
of the best offensive seasons of all time. His .690 slugging
percentage led the league, and after Aug. 1 he hit .349 with 31
home runs and 62 RBIs--perhaps the most productive two months
anyone has ever had.

"We like big strong guys who hit home runs," says Cleveland
general manager John Hart. "My background is with Baltimore.
When Earl Weaver was the manager, he always liked the long
ball." Well, Weaver would like Belle--and the rest of the team
Hart has assembled. The Tribe led the AL in nearly every
offensive category in '95, and this year may bring even more
pyrotechnics.

No sooner did they lose free-agent first baseman Paul Sorrento
and his 25 home runs to Seattle than the Indians lured Julio
Franco back from Japan to play first base. Last season Franco
hit .306 for the Chiba Lotte Marines with 10 homers and 58 RBIs
and won the Japanese league's equivalent of a Gold Glove. And
while the rap against him is that he is oft-injured, Franco
appeared in 127 of 130 games in Japan. He should also make
Cleveland even more powerful against lefthanded pitching; the
righthanded Franco's career average against southpaws is .321.

Other than McDowell and Franco, the lineup is almost identical
to last season's. The fifth starter is the one slot that isn't
set. Southpaw Brian Anderson, acquired from the Angels in the
off-season, is the frontrunner, but if he falters (and he
might--he gave up 24 home runs in 99 2/3 innings last year),
there are three men waiting in the wings: veteran Mark Clark,
who was 9-7 in '95; Albie Lopez, a 24-year-old power pitcher;
and Chad Ogea, 25, who won eight games in '95.

Cleveland is hoping that Lopez and Ogea come on the way Jose
Mesa and Julian Tavarez did last year. Manager Mike Hargrove
was able to use Mesa, who was virtually unhittable in '95, for
no more than an inning at a time because of an excellent corps
of middle relievers led by Tavarez, who was 10-2.

To say that hopes are high this season would be an
understatement: Every seat for every game at Jacobs Field for
1996 has been sold; this is the first time that a major league
team has sold out before the season. "Expectations couldn't be
much higher," says newcomer McDowell. "It's going to be a
disappointment if we don't come home with the trophy." Remember
when Clevelanders would have been happy with just a winning
streak?

--Mark McClusky

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON COVER PHOTO [Varies by region] Jackpot! Cleveland looks to cash in with newcomer Jack McDowellCOLOR PHOTO: TONY TOMSIC Belle will again be swinging for the seats, and in Cleveland they'll all be filled. [Albert Belle in game]

BY THE NUMBERS

1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .291 (1)
Home Runs 207 (1)
ERA 3.83 (1)
Fielding Pct. .982 (6)

On the Warpath

Last season Albert Belle became the first player in major league
history to hit at least 50 doubles and 50 home runs in one
season. Over the past five seasons Belle amassed 177 doubles and
186 home runs despite playing in only 684 games (126 games shy
of five full, 162-game seasons). Only two other players in big
league history have attained Belle's totals in both doubles and
homers over any five-year period: Babe Ruth (1919-23 and
1920-24) and Lou Gehrig (1927-31 and any five-year span between
1929 and '37). Belle's recent numbers stack up favorably against
those of the most productive five-year stretch for both Ruth and
Gehrig.

Most Productive Games Doubles Homers
Five-Year Periods

Babe Ruth,
Yankees 1920-24 709 188 235

Lou Gehrig,
Yankees 1927-31 772 205 196

Albert Belle,
Indians 1991-95 684 177 186

PLAYER TO WATCH

Most baseball fans had never heard of Herbert Perry when he
entered Game 3 of the 1995 World Series in the ninth inning as a
defensive replacement at first base. With the score tied 6-6,
two out and two runners on, Atlanta's Chipper Jones sent a
scorcher just inside the first base line. Perry dove to his
left, snagged the ball and beat Jones to the bag, saving the
game. The Indians went on to win in the 11th. Herbert Perry was
a stranger no more.

Cleveland fans will see much more of him this season. As the
Indians' best defensive first baseman, Perry, 26, will spell
Julio Franco. Perry's productive bat has also forced the Indians
to find another spot for him, and that spot is third base, where
he'll back up Jim Thome. A second-round draft pick out of the
University of Florida in 1991, Perry should feel right at home
at the hot corner: He played there as a Gator, in the minors and
in his first game as a big leaguer in 1994.

PROJECTED LINEUP With 1995 Stats

BATTING ORDER BA, HRs, RBIs, SBs

CF Kenny Lofton .310, 7, 53, 54
1B Julio Franco[*] .306 in Japan
2B Carlos Baerga .314, 15, 90, 11
LF Albert Belle .317, 50, 126, 5
DH Eddie Murray .323, 21, 82, 5
3B Jim Thome .314, 25, 73, 4
RF Manny Ramirez .308, 31, 107, 6
C Sandy Alomar Jr. .300, 10, 35, 3
SS Omar Vizquel .266, 6, 56, 29

BENCH

IF Herbert Perry .315, 3, 23, 1
IF Alvaro Espinoza .252, 2, 17, 0

STARTERS W-L, ERA

RH Jack McDowell[*] 15-10, 3.93
RH Orel Hershiser 16-6, 3.87
RH Dennis Martinez 12-5, 3.08
RH Charles Nagy 16-6, 4.55
LH Brian Anderson[*] 6-8, 5.87

RELIEVERS SAVES, ERA

RH Jose Mesa 46, 1.13
RH Julian Tavarez 0, 2.44
LH Paul Assenmacher 0, 2.82
RH Eric Plunk 2, 2.67

[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie