By Rob Todor
Manny Acta was ready for his first game as Cleveland Indians’ manager even before he took the job.
“I’m excited,” the Indians new manager said Thursday after putting players through a brisk two-hour workout under the warm Arizona sun. “I’m eager because of what I’ve seen from the players in practice. They prepare well.”
Acta was hired in October, but he didn’t come in cold. Fired in July after 21‚Ñ2 seasons managing the Washington Nationals, Acta spent the next few months studying all teams — in case a job opened up.
So when the Indians fired Eric Wedge and turned to Acta, he already had an idea of what was needed to improve a ballclub that finished 65-97 — its worst record since losing 105 games in 1992.
Acta believes a good performance in spring training can help the Indians. In seven seasons under Wedge, the team had a winning record in April only twice.
To combat that, Acta says he’ll play to win and use his regulars a little more than usual later in exhibition play.
“That just makes sense,” veteran right-hander Jake Westbrook said. “We all know we’re here to get our work in, but why not do it and win, too?
“We’re all competitors and enjoy winning at whatever we do. To get into a winning mindset is a good thing.”
Acta believes the Indians have winning talent.
“We’re loaded with athletes,” he said. “We’re not your typical American League team. We can run with guys like Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. And we’ve got guys like Choo, Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Russell Branyan, Jhonny Peralta and others who can pop the ball out.
“We’re going to score runs. It’s no secret we have to get our starting rotation in order.”
Right-hander Justin Masterson, acquired from Boston in July, will start today. Six relievers, including closer Kerry Wood, are also scheduled to work. Seven other pitchers are scheduled to face the Reds on Saturday.
“We have a lot of guys competing, but we’re not running a tryout camp,” Acta said.
Masterson, Westbrook and Fausto Carmona, along with left-handers David Huff and Aaron Laffey, are the leading rotation candidates.
Acta’s first lineup card has longtime leadoff man Grady Sizemore batting second, but does not list this year’s prospective No. 1 batter Michael Brantley.