CLEVELAND (AP) - Manny Acta stopped himself in mid-sentence, closed his fist and knocked three times on top of his wooden office desk.
He’s superstitious _ and smart.
With a challenging first year in Cleveland dwindling to its final days, Acta, hired last October, spent part of the pregame before Wednesday’s home-season ending doubleheader against Detroit reviewing what happened to the Indians in 2010 and what lies ahead.
“I’m excited about this franchise,” said Acta, who spent two-plus seasons in a similar rebuilding project in Washington before he was fired last season after 87 games. “The challenge is to turn it around.”
Injuries, always the unknown variable for any team, were especially tough on Acta’s club in 2010. Sizemore, the Indians‘ full-speed-ahead center fielder hurt his left knee and underwent microfracture surgery. Santana, a free-swinging catcher who made an immediate impact in Cleveland’s power-deprived lineup upon arrival, tore a knee ligament in a home-plate collision.
There were other bumps and bruises along the way.
Those two, though, left the biggest marks.
“This is a club that just can’t absorb those type of injuries,” Acta said. “When you talk about the Cleveland Indians, I think the whole world thinks about Grady Sizemore. We’re not the type of team that can just have somebody get hurt and plug in a guy that hit 35 home runs two years ago or go out and get a guy.
“It really hurt us.”
Sizemore is expected to make a full recovery and has been rehabbing in Arizona. Santana, too, anticipates being 100 percent for spring training camp. He began the season at Triple-A Columbus, but was crushing minor league pitchers and the Indians called him up in June.
Santana hit .260 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 46 games, providing a small taste of his scary potential.
Without Sizemore at the top of the order or Santana in the middle, the Indians‘ lost their punch. Only Shin-Soo Choo, one of baseball’s most underrated players, put any fear into opposing pitchers. Acta longs for the day he can pencil all three names onto his lineup card.