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Indians camp report: Likes, dislikes

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Shin-Soo Choo is being counted on to bounce back after hitting just eight home runs in 2011. (Getty Images)  
Shin-Soo Choo is being counted on to bounce back after hitting just eight home runs in 2011. (Getty Images)  

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Indians:

Likes

 We already know that the Indians can exceed expectations, because they did it by spending the first half of last season in first place. "We got that feeling of being in first," Justin Masterson said. "After that, anything else doesn't feel as good." General manager Chris Antonetti says flat-out that "we expect to be in the postseason, and our goal is to win the World Series."

Cleveland Indians
Danny Knobler
The question used to be whether Justin Masterson could be in a rotation. Camp report >>
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 Masterson has developed into the starting pitcher that many doubted he could be. You could say the same about Josh Tomlin, who won 12 games for the Indians last year. Now, if you could only say it about Ubaldo Jimenez, too.

 The Indians say that neither Jason Kipnis nor Lonnie Chisenhall, the two big prospects who debuted during last season, is guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster this year. But it does look like both should become quality big-league players. Kipnis, a second baseman who gets compared to both Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia, is especially easy to like. Chisenhall has a little more of a battle this spring, because the Indians like Jack Hannahan as a possible alternative at third base.

 The Indians have to get more from right fielder Shin-Soo Choo than they did last year, right? After hitting 20 home runs in 2009 and 22 in 2010, Choo had problem after problem last year, and hit only eight home runs in 85 games, with 36 RBI.

Dislikes

 The Indians had a lot of their mid-90s stars around spring training this year, but it left you wondering if things will ever be like they once were in Cleveland. The attendance has never come close to matching those mid-90s levels, and the lack of revenues has left fans thinking that anyone who becomes a star with the Indians could soon be traded away.

 When they included top pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White in last summer's trade for Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians were operating under two assumptions. First, they figured that their window for winning could be short, but also could open soon. Second, they figured that Jimenez could be the top-of-the-rotation starter they'd need to compete in an AL Central division that features Justin Verlander. The first assumption could be true, but Jimenez has a long way to go to prove the second one. His late-season starts in Cleveland weren't great, and his early starts this spring have looked like more of the same.

 Grady Sizemore's big contract finally ran out, and the Indians brought him back for another year. Fair enough, except that Sizemore couldn't even make it through the early days of spring training without getting hurt again, which means he's on the way to a fourth consecutive injury-shortened season. The Indians say they expect to have him "for the majority of the season," but of course that assumes that he doesn't get hurt again.

 The bullpen was a huge part of the Indians' early success last year, and thus it has to be a little disconcerting that closer Chris Perez is missing much of spring training with a sore left side. The Indians say Perez could be back in time for opening day, or at least shortly thereafter, but it's a reminder that the bullpen will need to be as good -- and as healthy -- as it was last year, for the Indians to have any chance.

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