The Cleveland Indians were just one win away from their first World Series Championship since 1948, but an extra-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 at Progressive Field last November spoiled an otherwise special postseason for a club devoid of such a deep run in 19 years.

With the Indians getting to Game 7 of the World Series and bolstering the lineup, bullpen and starting rotation during the offseason, expectations are high for Cleveland heading into the 2017 regular season.

“Regardless of what external opinions are, whether it’s good or bad, what really matters is how we feel in the clubhouse,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Our goals are going to be lofty, as they should be, but as long as we play by that and not what other people are saying, we’ll be okay.”

The Indians are the favorites to win the American League Central Division, and one of the teams expected to contend for the pennant in 2017, but the opinions and predictions of those outside of Cleveland’s clubhouse mean nothing to the players and coaches who put on the jerseys and practice their craft on the diamond every day.

“All that matters is who’s standing at the end of the year,” relief pitcher Andrew Miller said. “I’ve been a part of preseason teams that were meant to win it all and didn’t even make the playoffs, so I don’t really care about that. It’s to find a way to put yourself in a good position in the division down the stretch and take care of business from there.

“You hope you handle it well. I’ve been a part of teams that were expected to do it and didn’t do squat. I think this team has the personality and the character to show up and have a good season. A lot of things can happen, but right now, we’re in great shape and looking forward to it.”

Having been in the Indians’ organization for more than a decade, including parts of seven seasons with the Major League club, starting pitcher Josh Tomlin believes Cleveland is capable of handling the successes and attention that come from the run to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

“I think we’ve got a pretty humble group of guys in that clubhouse, a pretty determined group of guys and a group of guys that just enjoy being around each other, so I don’t think you’re going to see a lull at all in that clubhouse just because of the support we have for each other,” Tomlin said.

“That’s what we have from the top, in our fan base, in the city of Cleveland. I don’t think there’s going to be any of that disappointing what happened in the World Series, us losing in Game 7. I don’t think you’re going to see that disappointment roll over into next season at all. You have guys that are eager to be here, eager to return to play and just try to get this thing going and see what happens.”