During the offseason, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro introduced a few experienced veterans to bring leadership and familiarity with the game to one of the youngest ball clubs in the Major Leagues. In the past couple of weeks, those guys have been replaced by more young players who will need to adapt at the big league level.
Among those no longer with the Indians include Russell Branyan, Mark Grudzielanek and Mike Redmond, possibly with more to come as the trade deadline swiftly approaches. Each was signed to the team with a purpose, and now, those purposes are all over. This is exactly why Tribe enthusiasts should get excited.
It is clear that Carlos Santana no longer needs a mentor. If the Tribe feel Santana is ready, then it must be that the teachings of catchers coach Sandy Alomar Jr. have rubbed off on him quickly. Although Alomar is a catching expert, a coach can only bring so much to the table. Redmond played on several winning Minnesota Twins teams that had good pitching. If Santana was not completely ready, Mike Redmond would still be with the Indians.
Most of the time, it takes a young backstop years to learn from their instructors. This progress made by Santana should have Indians fans stirred up, in fact, he could be an All-Star in no time. Having five home runs in only 95 at-bats is quite a good start. Carlos now has no leash.
In a less recent move, second basemen Mark Grudzielanek was released. The move initially made room for Anderson Hernandez, so the Tribe could add a short stop to its depth chart. But there is more to this move when one examines it closely. Mark played mostly second base, and once Asdrubal Cabrera returns from his fractured left forearm, the main man playing the bag at second will be Jason Donald. The numbers for him are less impressive, but he has upped his batting average to .274 after a slow start. He has 12 doubles in just under 150 at-bats, which is good production. His constant hustle and lead by example mentality gives Tribe fans reason to believe he will improve even more then he has already. The last time the Indians had a dynamic duo in the middle infield was unforgettably Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar. Just trying to imitate that twosome is going to be difficult, if not monumental, but at least Cabrera and Donald could mimic the legendary double play combination.
Last but not least it appears Matt LaPorta will finally come around and be the player the Indians thought he'd be when they acquired him from the Milwaukee Brewers in the CC Sabathia trade. It's been almost two years since the trade, and LaPorta is ready to become an everyday player. Now that Russell Branyan is in Seattle, the Tribe will need someone to fill that hole. The batting average he currently owns, he owns less than proudly at .255, but he has been inconsistently up and down from Majors to Minors. Getting in a nice hitters rhythm has been a tricky task for young LaPorta. But given time, he will come around.
This youth movement for the Indians displays the organization's confidence in their adolescence players. This can only be a good sign, witnessing the veterans that have too much mileage on them take off for what will likely be retirement for each one with Branyan being the only exception. Its time to go out with the old and ring in the new as the Tribe continues their long journey, aspiring to return to where they were in 2007.