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Al Central

April 01, 2001

Cleveland Indians

Record: 90-72, 2nd place, 5 back

Runs scored: 950 (2nd in AL)

Runs allowed: 816 (5th in AL)

Manager: Charlie Manuel

Home: Jacobs Field

That was then: Cleveland missed the postseason for the first year since 1993 despite posting a major-league-best 46-30 record the second half of the season and despite winning 90 games - more than they won in two of their five straight Central Division-winning seasons and more than the 2000 world-champion Yankees.

This is now: The Indians may not need to finish second in the AL in runs again to compete. The pitching, by dint of being healthier, will be better; last year, injuries forced Cleveland to use a major-league-record 32 pitchers. The big key: 20-year-old starter C. C. Sabathia has an upside as big as his 6-foot-7 frame.

Upside: Newly acquired Juan Gonzalez has more home runs (12) and RBIs (36) at Jacobs than any other Indians opponent; his 627 RBIs the past five seasons are only five fewer than Ramirez's total. ... Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley and Dave Burba were 19-5 down the stretch.

Downside: Catcher Einar Diaz is the only everyday position player under 30. ... Injuries to Gonzalez's back and Ellis Burks' knees could short-circuit an offense with less depth than in recent years.

Don't miss ... : ... the divisional games. After going 182-101 in the AL Central the previous six years, Cleveland was 21-30 last season.

Don't be surprised ... : ... if Roberto Alomar, with 2,196 hits, continues his march toward 3,000. STATS Inc.'s Bill James says he has the best chance of any active player to reach the plateau - 64 percent.

Don't expect ... : ... Cleveland to miss Sandy Alomar. The staff ERA with Diaz behind the plate was nearly a run lower (4.34 to 5.22).

Book it: "The Harsh Luck Club"

Cleveland at a glance

2001 LINEUP CARD AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) CF Kenny Lofton ... .294 in 2nd half when shoulder healed SS Omar Vizquel ... 8 straight Gold Gloves; hit .287 2B Roberto Alomar ... Big spring; hit .379 last 65 games RF Juan Gonzalez* ... 2-time MVP has a lot to prove 1B Jim Thome ... 37 HRs, 171 K's; it's all or nothing LF Ellis Burks ... 96 RBIs in 396 at-bats with Giants 3B Travis Fryman-i ... Elbow KO's All-Star for a week DH Russell Branyan ... 3rd base for now; 8 spring HRs C Einar Diaz ... Strong arm; Eddie Taubensee backup

2001 ROTATION, CLOSER AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) RHP Bartolo Colon ... 15-8; 6-0, 3.05 ERA down stretch LHP Chuck Finley ... 16-11; 6-1 in September RHP Dave Burba ... 16-6 after two 15-win seasons LHP C. C. Sabathia ... First big-league start will be vs. O's RHP Steve Woodard/Tim Drew ... Charles Nagy healing RHP Bob Wickman ... 14-for-17 in save tries in AL

Chicago White Sox

Record: 95-67, 1st place, lost Division Series to Mariners

Runs scored: 978 (1st in AL)

Runs allowed: 839 (7th in AL)

Manager: Jerry Manuel

Home: Comiskey Park

That was then: Chicago rode a major-league-high 978 runs to a 20-game improvement and first playoff spot in seven years. The White Sox were 21-12 against AL playoff teams in the regular season but went 0-3 against Seattle in the Division Series, scoring just seven runs.

This is now: Seeking their first pennant since 1959, the White Sox have targeted starting pitching as their need and 20-game-winner David Wells as their savior. The hefty lefty is a career 8-1 in the playoffs.

Upside: Wells, James Baldwin, Cal Eldred and Jim Parque went a combined 57-23; that margin of 34 games above .500 is the best for any four 2001 teammates in the majors.

Downside: Baldwin (shoulder), Eldred (elbow) and relievers Bob Howry (shoulder) and Sean Lowe (shoulder) are coming off surgery. ... The bigger strike zone may trouble ultra-particular Frank Thomas. ... The 133 errors and 88 unearned runs were worst in the division.

Don't miss ... : ... Jake and the Fatman (Opening Day at Jacobs Field, when Wells opposes the White Sox's only serious division rival). Wells has a deep disdain for Indians fans, who made fun of his late mother, and is 17-4 lifetime against Cleveland.

Don't be surprised ... : ... if Chicago tops 1,000 runs. Management has lowered the fences from 9 feet to 8 and moved them in by 5 and 12 feet in the corners.

Don't expect ... : ... Harold Baines, 42, to reach 3,000 hits. He's 145 away and batted just 61 times after being acquired in late July.

Book it: "Waiting for Lefty and Other Plays"

Chicago at a glance

2001 LINEUP CARD AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) 2B Ray Durham ... Third in AL with 121 runs CF Jose Valentin ... Spurned O's; tries new position DH Frank Thomas ... 3rd in AL in total bases with 364 RF Magglio Ordonez ... 126 RBIs; MVP candidate LF Carlos Lee ... Reported bigger after 2nd-half fade 1B Paul Konerko ... 97 RBIs; Jeff Liefer may steal time 3B Herbert Perry ... Joe Crede midseason call-up? C Sandy Alomar* ... Vet's health, defense in question SS Royce Clayton* ... Upgrade after Valentin's 36 E's

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