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Notes: Spencer anxious to play
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03/29/2003  6:17 PM ET 
Notes: Spencer anxious to play
Young Indians team ready for Opening Day
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Shane Spencer came over from New York, where he spent five years with the Yankees. (AP)
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.

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."

complete coverage: spring training 2003

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 regular season."

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.

    Dave Burba   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 240
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Indians site
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.



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