The Cleveland Indians likely will have seven left-handed hitters and two switch hitters in their lineup to start the 2012 season.
There’s a glaring need for a right-handed power hitter, but the free-agent market is light in that department and the Indians’ budget is limited.
Scratch Josh Willingham from the Tribe’s list of potential candidates. The Minnesota Twins signed Willingham to a three-year deal worth $21 million Thursday. Willingham had a career-high 29 home runs to go with 98 RBIs for the Oakland A’s last season.
The Indians, whose budget will grow next season because of raises through arbitration and the Derek Lowe signing, never offered more than two years for Willingham.
It appears, unless the Tribe goes after someone such as Xavier Nady, that Shelley Duncan or Matt LaPorta will have to provide that righty pop.
Here’s some more MLB news tracking this week:
–Jason Grilli will come out of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen again next season after signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal this week. Grilli is the son of former Gannon pitcher and major leaguer Steve Grilli.
–The Pirates Caravan stopped at the Millcreek Mall Wednesday, bringing a message of hope for next season. Outfielder Jose Tabata, pitcher Jeff Karstens, first base coach Luis Silverio and broadcaster Greg Brown were part of the Erie stop.
–The Pirates gave up one of their top relievers in Jose Veras but got back another third-base option with the trade for Casey McGehee this week. McGehee slumped with Milwaukee this past season after having a nice 2010 season (.285 BA, 23 HRs, 104 RBIs) at the plate. Even if McGehee doesn’t supplant Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner, the Bucs are hoping he can put up numbers close to his 2010 season.
–National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and is facing a 50-game suspension. Braun, who disputes the finding, reportedly had elevated levels of testosterone in his system. Many fans would like to see him lose his MVP award, but that’s not going to happen.
–No surprise here: Former controversial reliever John Rocker admitted to steroid use when he pitched for the Atlanta Braves. Rocker also pitched briefly for the Indians. My favorite Rocker quote from the story: “I wish 37-year old John Rocker could go back and punch 23-year old John Rocker in his face.”
–Check out this video blog from MLB.com reporter Jordan Bastian who discusses the Indians’ pitching staff. Bastian brings up the fact the Indians bring back three sinker-ball starters and has a real asset with the bullpen.
– Tony Battaglia