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Cleveland Indians

The defending Central Division champions, Cleveland had a relatively quiet offseason. The only move of note was to sign free-agent first baseman Yonder Alonso, who spent part of last season with the Mariners, but there really wasn't a need for much more. The Indians are just one year removed from a World Series appearance and were arguably even better last year, with few weaknesses to address. They finished with 102 wins, 22 of which came in a row—a record-setting consecutive wins streak besting the previous MLB-best mark of 21 set by the Cubs in 1935 and 2002's AL-best 20 gamer set by Oakland—but were surprise losers to the Wild-Card Yankees in the ALDS.

With a starting staff led by Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber and a bullpen anchored by the left/right combo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, Cleveland will be a tough club to score runs on, so keeping their formidable lineup in check will be key. Outfielder Michael Brantley, third baseman José Ramírez, shortstop Francisco Lindor, and powerful DH Edwin Encarnación form a challenging core for any team to pitch against, so the M's will have their work cut out for them.

Players to Watch

brnatley2Michael Brantley: The son of former Mariner Mickey Brantley, Cleveland's All-Star outfielder has been one of the Tribe's best players when healthy. He's injury-prone, though, and the last time he made it through the bulk of a season was 2015, when he led the AL in doubles while playing 137 games.

kluberCorey Kluber: The best pitcher you've possibly never heard of, "the Klubot" already has two Cy Young awards in just six years of big-league service. Anything short of 200 innings and 200 strikeouts will be a disappointment for the Cleveland faithful.

lindorFrancisco Lindor: Shortstop is a stacked position in the American League, and Lindor is among the best of the lot. Though he lost last year's Gold Glove to LA's Andrelton Simmons, Lindor could easily have won it for a second straight season. Advice to M's batters: try hitting to the right side.

Manager

francona

Terry Francona: Among the most successful managers in the bigs (25th-most wins all-time), Francona already has two World Series championships under his belt with the Red Sox, but feels the sting of losing a dramatic Game 7 to the Cubs in 2015 and wants to bring the Indians back for another go. Francona was an outstanding college player with the University of Arizona (go Wildcats) and a respectable one in the Majors (.274 career average over 10 years with five teams, including the Indians), but managing is where he made his mark—he keeps his teams loose with practical jokes and fosters loyalty with a general positive attitude and humor.

Familiar Face

alonso

Yonder Alonso: The first-baseman appeared in 42 games with Seattle in 2017 after coming over in an August trade with Oakland for OF Boog Powell. He'd been an All-Star with the A's the month before, but was downright ordinary with the M's, batting .265 with 11 extra-base hits. That's close to his career BA of .268, but the 22 homers he'd clubbed before the trade turned out to be an anomaly—prior to 2017, the most home runs Alonso had amassed in a season was nine, in 2012.

Franchise History

Cleveland Indians(1915 - present)
 
World Champions:1920, 1948
League Champions:1954, 1995, 1997, 2016
Division Titles:1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2017

— Notes —

Edwin Encarnación: the ex-Blue Jay is always a threat at the plate, but sometimes he might be the guy you want to face. Steadily climbing the leaderboard for most career strikeouts, he's topped 130 Ks in each of the last two years. He's also the only player in the Majors to hit 30 or more home runs in each of the last six years.

Josh Tomlin: Last year Tomlin led all big-league pitchers in walk prevention, issuing just 14 free passes in 141 innings.

Andrew Miller: Cody Allen may get all the saves, but Miller might be the better reliever when push comes to shove. The lefty became a household name during the 2016 postseason, when he struck out 30 batters in 1913 innings and won MVP honors in the ALCS.

Corey Kluber: Kluber is making his fourth consecutive opening day start, making him the fourth Indians hurler to do so. Bob Feller, Gaylord Perry, and Stan Coveleski are the others.

Yonder Alonso: Alonso, who played 42 games with Seattle in 2017,  led the Majors in home runs this spring, with seven. That’s the most homers any Tribe hitter has hit in a single spring training since the team moved their spring training home from Florida back to Arizona in 2009.

Tyler Olson: This former Mariner didn’t allow a single run in thirty appearances with the Tribe in 2017, spanning a total of 20 innings. It was the longest such streak in the Majors last year.

Terry Francona: The Cleveland skipper has managed 17 seasons in the bigs and has won 90 or more games in nine of them, most among active MLB managers.

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