GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Manny Acta has a positive outlook for the Cleveland Indians' season. Even with all sorts of reasons not to.
The Cleveland Indians manager will have a simple message for his players before the team's first full squad workout Sunday.
"Don't buy into what people are saying," Acta said when asked for details of the speech he will give. "It's about winning. That's what we're trying to do here."
The Indians have to deal with two stars coming off injuries, a young pitching rotation that struggled to get outs, and defenders who made far more than their share of errors.
Even so, Acta thinks his team will be improved from last season when it finished with a 69-93 record and in fourth place in the American League Central.
"I'm a positive person," he said. "We expect to have a good season."
With a payroll expected to be around $47 million, the Indians didn't spend much money on free agents. The biggest additions were infielder Orlando Cabrera, who is expected to win the second-base job, and outfielder Austin Kearns, who returns to play a backup role.
The Indians finished 25 games behind division winner Minnesota last season. Considering the Twins, Detroit and the Chicago White Sox all have payrolls over $100 million, it appears difficult for the Indians to move up in the standings.
"It doesn't help me a bit to complain about it," he said. "Hey, that's the way the game is. You can't waste any time worrying about it. My job is to make them better, regardless."
Acta is enough of a realist to know there are several questions surrounding the team as he heads into his second season as manager.
The health of center fielder Grady Sizemore and catcher Carlos Santana, both of whom are coming off knee surgery, is the biggest. The Indians finished 26th in the majors in runs scored last season and need both to return and be productive. It's unclear if Sizemore, who is coming off microfracture surgery, will be ready by opening day. Santana is expected to be ready when the season begins.
The Indians also need their young pitching staff to continue on the improvements it made last season.
Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson and Mitch Talbot have locked up spots in the rotation. Carlos Carrasco, who pitched well in September, has the inside track on one of the two available spots. Josh Tomlin, David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes will battle for the final opening.
Chris Perez, who converted 23 of 27 save opportunities last season, will be the closer. Setup men Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp are coming off solid seasons.
Defense, particularly in the infield, was also a problem in 2010. Cleveland's infielders made 72 of the team's 110 errors. Improving the defense is one of the top priorities in camp.
"It's a must for us," Acta said. "We have to play better defense."
Right felder Shin-Soo Choo was the Indians' best player last season. He batted .300 with 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. He also led major league outfielders with 14 assists.
NOTES: Acta said the pitchers were able to get their work in Saturday despite a heavy rain that hit camp late in the morning. Strong winds blew dust and tumbleweeds all over the complex. ... Acta said all players have reported. ... Pitchers will throw batting practice for the first time Sunday.