Masterson looks for bounce-back season

It was a season Justin Masterson would certainly like to forget. The Beavercreek native and his Cleveland Indians hope to put 2012 in their rear-view mirror when they leave Goodyear, Ariz., next month.

The soon-to-be-28-year-old right-hander hopes to bounce back after struggling to some of the worst numbers in his career a year ago.

Masterson led the Tribe with 11 wins, but he also lost a career-high 15 games. His 4.93 ERA was a result of giving up more hits, runs, home runs, and walks than any time since he signed his first pro contract.

“Each year you understand who you are as a player,” Masterson said. “A lot of things that you took for granted that you did well, you sometimes lose them.”

The Indians struggled through a second-half meltdown in 2012. They lost 53 games after the All-Star break, ending up with the second-worst record in the American League.

“We’d get into a good rhythm and then would just try and do too much,” Justin told me this week. “We’d leave some balls up and guys would hit them around, and it would just take us too long to adjust.”

The Indians added a couple of veteran free agents to the starting rotation, but Masterson appears to be in line for his second straight opening-day start.

“Seeing all of the changes we’ve made over the off-season, bringing Tito (manager Terry Francona) in and all of the free agents we brought in,” Masterson said. “I don’t see how you can’t be excited to start the season.”

Despite his problems a year ago, the Indians gave Masterson nearly a $2 million raise last month, avoiding arbitration with a one-year deal worth $5.7 million. Now he’s ready to prove he’s worth the investment.

“Tough times lead to learning experiences,” Masterson said. When you learn from those, it will help you for years to come.”

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