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Winning time for Indians

Cleveland is one of the biggest surprises in the American League so far this season, winning without significant contributions from top three hitters.

April 16, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Cleveland second baseman Orlando Cabrera, right, celebrates with first baseman Matt LaPorta and third baseman Jack Hannahan after a victory over the Angels on April 11.
Cleveland second baseman Orlando Cabrera, right, celebrates with first… (Kirby Lee / Image of Sport…)

Orlando Cabrera has represented a different team in the postseason for four years running — the Angels in 2007, the Chicago White Sox in 2008, the Minnesota Twins in 2009 and the Cincinnati Reds last year. He signed with the Cleveland Indians this year.

Streak over? Not so fast.

The American League Central is the home of baseball's two unlikeliest success stories so far, with the Indians and Kansas City Royals each 10-4. The Royals beat Felix Hernandez on Saturday.

Yet, while the Royals have a loaded minor league system, the Indians are trying to turn the prospects acquired for CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee into bona fide major league players.

They traded Sabathia in 2008, and it's time for the key prospects in the deal — first baseman Matt LaPorta and outfielder Michael Brantley — to produce. If the Indians win, LaPorta finally can be identified in Cleveland beyond "the guy we got for CC."

"You brought it up," LaPorta said, "and there's a lot more people than you."

LaPorta, who hit .221 last year, is off to a .250 start. Brantley is at .302. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera began play Saturday leading the AL in runs batted in.

The most hopeful sign: The Indians have won without significant contributions from their three top hitters — outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (.226), catcher Carlos Santana (.191) and outfielder Grady Sizemore (disabled list).

"We've just got to ride it until the wheels fall off," Orlando Cabrera said. "We never know when we'll have this streak again. We don't have our best player, which is Grady. When he comes back, he'll help us even more."

Cabrera is not the shy type, but he is not about to predict a playoff berth for Cleveland, at least not yet. Check back in a couple months, he said.

"We'll see if I'll be talking," he said.

Former Angels still at it

The Angels' World Series alumni will not go quietly. Ramon Ortiz, who pitched briefly for the Dodgers last season, is in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system and could be summoned for a spot start this week.

There are five players from the Angels' 2002 champions on major league rosters: Chone Figgins and Adam Kennedy with the Seattle Mariners, John Lackey with the Boston Red Sox, Jose Molina with the Toronto Blue Jays and Francisco Rodriguez with the New York Mets.

Garret Anderson, Brendan Donnelly and Scot Shields could not find jobs over the winter and retired.

David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Bengie Molina, Scott Schoeneweis and Jarrod Washburn have not officially retired, but they are not playing this season.

The Dodgers inquired about Eckstein during spring training but found his asking price too high for their liking.

Eckstein would appear to have the temperament and the short swing to be a perfect utility infielder, but one National League coach said Eckstein would be a poor fit in that role because his range has diminished to the point where he could help at second base but not at shortstop.

—Bill Shaikin

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