WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Before they took the field to begin a new season, the Cleveland Indians couldn’t help but look back at the last one.
One win away from the pennant, the Indians watched Boston take the final three games in the ALCS and advance to the World Series. The Indians were outscored 30-5 in the collapse.
The hurt still lingered as the Indians held their first full-squad workout of spring training Thursday morning.
“It was heartbreaking,” said pitcher Paul Byrd, who admitted two hours before Game 7 against Boston to past use of human growth hormone for a medical condition. “You’re one game away from the World Series and you feel like it’s a done deal. It was hard to take the whole offseason.”
It even stuck with manager Eric Wedge, who has preached a day-to-day approach to his players since he took over in 2003.
“When you go that deep and there’s that much emotion involved, it takes a little longer to turn the page,” he said.
For some, the ending was too painful to think about.
“I thought about it for one day,” Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia said. “I watched tapes of my three (playoff) starts to see what I did wrong and what I could learn from. That was it. I didn’t want to dwell on it.”
Figuring his players had heard enough about it, Wedge didn’t bring up the playoffs when he addressed the team before Thursday’s workout.
“We talked about ’08 and what we need to do to prepare and the work that’s expected of them,” he said. “We’ve got to start over and work hard.”
The Indians won 96 games last season, tying Boston for the most victories in baseball. The only key addition in the offseason was the signing of Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi.
“We have pretty much the same team,” Sabathia said. “Now we have more experience. We won one series and we played in Game 7 in another series. That will mean a lot for us.”
While the Indians made few changes, Detroit, which finished in second place in the AL Central Division last season, picked up several key acquisitions, including third baseman Miguel Cabrera, shortstop Edgar Renteria and pitcher Dontrelle Willis.
“They’re one of the best teams in the American League,” Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner said. “They’ve had a good club the last couple of years and they added some good players. Obviously, they’re going to be tough competition.”
The theme around the Indians clubhouse this spring has been: Don’t forget the disappointment, but turn it into a positive.
“That can help us,” Hafner said. “I think we can use it as motivation.”
OF Shin-Soo Choo, who had ligament transplant surgery on his left elbow in September, has been playing catch at 90 feet. He’s expected to DH late in the exhibition schedule and will begin a rehab assignment in late April or early May.
• RHP Jorge Julio has obtained his visa to leave Venezuela, and is expected to be in camp today.