07/07/2003 7:20 PM ET
Blake named Player of the Week
Indians third baseman caps fine week with AL honor
2003 Player of the Week winners
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Before the Indians even got to Winter Haven, Fla., for Spring Training there was a
general consensus that their biggest problem would be finding a third baseman to replace
retired fan favorite Travis Fryman.
Even the Tribe's general manager, Mark Shapiro, felt the hot corner was where the Indians were at their weakest, saying the team had not just a hole but a "gap" at third.
However, after beating out Greg LaRocca and Bill Selby for the Opening Day job, Casey Blake is starting to look like more than just a stopgap for the Indians. He's evolving into a reliable everyday player.
"He continues to get better," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He continues to have a better feel for his swing at this level."
And the astounding numbers Blake put up over the past week are proof.
Blake finished the week batting .375 (12-for-32) with four home runs and 14 RBIs to earn American
League Pepsi Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career.
"I always said to myself, if given the opportunity and given the at-bats and the patience by a
coaching staff and general manager, I always felt I could get that comfort level that I had down
in Triple-A," Blake said. "I don't know if I'd say (I'm) settled in (yet). I would say it's a
grind every day.
"It's tough for me every day. It's tough for everybody every day. I know how insecure players'
jobs can be."
He also knows how secure they can be. He spent the last three seasons in the Minnesota farm system stuck behind veteran third baseman Corey Koskie, which made the unbelievable game he had Saturday mean just a little bit more.
Blake erupted against his former team at the Metrodome, going 5-for-5 with two home runs, a
double, 13 total bases and a whopping seven RBIs.
"Somebody would be lying if they said doing it against your old team doesn't feel good," Blake
said following the game. "Although I like all of those guys over there and the coaching staff,
too, I don't really have anything to prove against them.
"But certainly to do it against them felt pretty good."
What had to feel even better for the 29-year-old was that it was his second seven-RBI day of the
week. During last Monday's doubleheader with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, Blake went 2-for-3
with a home run and five RBIs in the matinee and followed it up by going 3-for-5 with a two-run
homer during the late show.
Even more astounding was that the big day came after Blake had missed a weekend series against the Reds because he rushed home to Indianola, Iowa, where his wife, Abbie, who is expecting the couple's second child, thought she was going into labor.
"She was having pretty strong contractions, was timing them and had dilated," he said. "She thought it was the real thing. It turned out to be a false alarm."
So Blake met up with the Tribe in Kansas City to help his team deliver a pair of wins in the
"I'm not very good after having one day off, but then to have three, you have to get your timing
back and see the ball," Blake said after the game. "I was a little surprised. When you are away
from the game for a little while, you wonder if I'm going to be at my best. You don't want to
embarrass yourself. There's no reason I should succeed today after three days off."
But succeed he did. And his manager, for one, believes Blake has many more big games ahead of him.
"He's never really had an extended opportunity at this level," Wedge said. "This is a guy who's been outstanding for us defensively throughout the course of the season. He's done nothing but ramp up offensively."
Todd Lorenz is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.