Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

From the editor’s notebook …

tribe starting pitchingThe Cleveland Indians are just 22 days away from the opening of the 2014 season and so far they are only having the good kind of spring training problems.

The Tribe hasn’t had to deal with any major injury issues; the outfield rotation is looking good, particularly left fielder Michael Brantley, who is now hitting .615 in Cactus League play after going four-for-four on Saturday; Carlos Santana is doing what he can in the field at third base; reliever Vinnie Pestano seems to be on the right track to fixing what ailed him last season; and, most importantly, the starting pitching is looking solid.

The top three of Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber and Zach McCallister have quietly gone about their business this spring, and with Danny Salazar expected to make his first start with the regulars on Monday, the rotation is shaping up nicely.

The best part of the rotation may be at the No. 5 spot, of all places, as is it looks like manager Terry Francona is going to have a hard decision to make when it comes time to make the final roster decisions.

Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco have both reportedly looked good so far, and the Tribe also has Aaron Harang and Trevor Bauer in the mix. And while the No. 5 starter may not be high on the most-important list, having options at the spot is a good thing. The Tribe will be far better served if Francona has to labor over the decision, rather than just handing someone the slot because they need a player to take the mound.

The Indians are starting to get some national attention, with Jonah Keri at Grantland tagging them as a lock to hit the over on 80.5 wins. If the Indians do that it would mark the first time since 2007 -08 that the Tribe had a winning record in consecutive seasons (and 2008 was just a .500 season).

To pull off that feat, the team will need a strong and reliable starting staff, especially since it is highly unlikely we will see a repeat of last season, when the Tribe had 11 walk-off wins from nine different players.

The Indians have what could shape up to be a very nice starting rotation and Francona could be facing some hard decisions when the team breaks camp.

We’re willing to bet those are the kind of problems that Francona is only too happy to have.

Big Z’s night was something else

While we still think it is debatable for a franchise that has never won a championship to retire jersey numbers, there’s no doubt the Cavs hit the mark from a production standpoint Saturday night when they retired the No. 11 of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

The pregame introductions and video tribute at halftime looked amazing on television; we can only imagine what it must have been like in person.

Well done, Cavs. Well done.

This could be a big week for the Browns

Free agency officially begins in the NFL on Tuesday at 4 p.m., meaning this could be a big week for the Cleveland Browns. (Of course, every week is a big week when you are the No. 1 franchise in town.)

Will the Browns make a push to retain safety T.J. Ward, or is reportedly drawing interest from Detroit and other teams?  Or will they turn their attention to safety Jairus Byrd, who was part of coach Mike Pettine’s defense last year in Buffalo?

With Brian Hoyer being the only viable quarterback option on the roster, would the Browns really consider Matt Schaub if (or better, when) he is released by Houston? 

And what of Alex Mack? The All-Pro center told USA Today that he plans to shop his services around despite the Browns placing the transition tag on him. The Browns can match any offer that Mack may receive, making it a small gamble they lose him, but his stance definitely places another layer of intrigue on the franchise.

 How the Browns answer those questions will reveal not only what they will eventually do when the NFL Draft rolls around in May, but also how long it will take the new regime to erase the mistakes of the previous regimes.

On that note, we will kick off the start of free agency with the return of 5 Questions in 5 Minutes, a Q&A with some of the best Browns minds on the Internet taking a look at the Browns and free agency. Look for it before the start of Tuesday’s free agency period.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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