03/29/2003 6:17 PM ET
Notes: Spencer anxious to play
Young Indians team ready for Opening Day
CINCINNATI -- When Shane Spencer heads to Baltimore for the Indians season
opener on Monday, he'll be playing his first Major League game in a uniform
without pinstripes -- and he couldn't be happier.
|By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
Spencer, who had spent his entire five-year career competing for an everyday
position with the New York Yankees, signed with Cleveland as a free agent this
offseason. Although he still won't have that elusive everyday player
tag, he will see plenty of action in the Indians lineup. The Tribe is planning
to use him in five different positions and hopes to get him between 400-450
at-bats, a hearty jump considering he never got above the 300 plateau in any
season with the Yankees.
"I don't look at it as a part-time situation," Indians manager Eric
Wedge said. "He'll be able to play in left, center, right, first base and
he'll get time at DH because of Ellis (Burks') knees. Whether he's in one area
more than another, we'll just have to see how it plays out, but we want to get
his bat in the lineup."
Considering the numbers Spencer put up in Spring Training, what manager wouldn't?
After Saturday's final exhibition game, Spencer ends the spring hitting .333
(20-for-60) with six home runs and 16 RBIs. Spencer also leaves boasting a .767
slugging percentage, eight doubles, 46 total bases and a .385 on-base percentage.
However impressive, those numbers turn to pumpkins once the regular season
starts -- and Spencer's smart enough to know it.
"I feel good with the bat right now," he said. "But it's Spring
Training. Early on, guys were just trying to throw strikes and now they may
just be trying to fine-tune their offspeed stuff. So it's been a little easier
to square up on them. You're not going to see a lot of those pitches in the
Once the 2003 campaign rolls around, Spencer will probably start missing those
pitches, but one thing Spencer won't be pining for is the 400 feet of earth
between home plate and the left-center field fence at Yankee Stadium. Instead
he'll be staring down a measly 370-foot interval to the gap at Jacobs Field.
"I love hitting at Jacobs Field," Spencer said. "It's great
for a guy like me who's right-handed. I'm a gap-type hitter and one of the big
plusses about hitting there is that it's not 400 feet to the gap. New York's
not a great place to hit if you're right-handed."
Minor move: The Indians traded catcher A.J. Hinch to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later on Saturday. Hinch was reassigned to minor league camp on March 26 after hitting .286 (8-for-28) with two home runs and eight RBIs in 17 games this spring. He is expected to start the season with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.
Starting lineup: The Indians Opening Day lineup is scheduled to look like this:
Milton Bradley -- CF
Omar Vizquel -- SS
Matt Lawton -- LF
Ellis Burks -- DH
Karim Garcia -- RF
Travis Hafner -- 1B
Casey Blake -- 3B
Josh Bard -- C
Brandon Phillips -- 2B
Opening Day Jitters? Here's what some of the Indians youngsters had
to say about playing in their first Opening Day game.
"I'm not nervous, I guess I'd say a little anxious. Not too much though,
you try to keep it in check and just have fun playing the game." -- third
baseman Casey Blake
"I'm just excited to get the season going. We had a pretty good competition
(in Florida) for first base and I'm excited to have the opportunity to prove
to my teammates that I belong." -- first baseman Travis Hafner
"Spring Training was fun, but it was long. I'm just ready to get going.
Opening Day's exciting for everyone and I've got that eager feeling just like
I'm sure everyone else does. We're loose right now, though. We know what we
want to do. We just want to get out there and play baseball the right way. We
want to play as a team and distribute the pressure on all 25 guys evenly."
-- catcher Josh Bard.
Heading out: Veteran right-hander Dave Burba was reassigned to minor league camp on Saturday. Burba is considering his other options before deciding if he wants to accept a job pitching in Triple-A.
"We want him to do what he thinks is the best thing for his career,"
Wedge said. "It's a decision that he has to make, but we're certainly better
off with him in our system."
Numerology: Including Saturday's victory, the Indians ended their 2003
Spring Training with a 19-11 record. As a team, the Tribe finished hitting .314
(325-for-1034) with 50 home runs and 196 runs scored.
Coming up: The Indians have a day off Sunday before heading to Baltimore for the season opener at Camden Yards. The Indians will send southpaw C.C. Sabathia to the hill against Orioles left-hander Rodrigo Lopez at 3:05 p.m. ET.
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.