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INDIANS Wedge inspires in first speech



Published: Tue, February 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The first-year manager seeks a championship approach.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Rookie manager Eric Wedge had a simple message as the Cleveland Indians held their first full-squad workout Friday: The rebuilding is over.

"This is major league baseball," Wedge said. "I expect us to have the mindset, that day-in and day-out, we're going to win every game."

Wedge met with all 62 players in camp before the workout began and got across his primary objective.

"The impression you make in spring training lasts the whole season," he said. "It goes far beyond the end of March. We are stressing that our expectations for these players is non-negotiable. We expect them to get better every day they are down here."

Championship quality

Wedge wants to instill one thing in his players.

"It's important to have a championship approach and attitude everyday," he said. "That starts with work ethic. I'm looking for championship players and championship people. The two go hand in hand to me."

It's obvious to everyone, however, a championship isn't in the Indians' immediate future. As it tries to rebuild with a lower payroll, the team will be going with either young major leaguers trying to establish themselves or prospects at several positions.

"The most important part of camp is going to be the decisions we as a staff make on our players," Wedge said.

Those decisions will start with the rotation, where two spots are open.

Men on the mound

Left-hander C.C. Sabathia, who bounced back from a slow start last season, will be the No. 1 starter. Lefty Brian Anderson and right-hander Jason Bere were signed in the off season to add a veteran presence.

Four young pitchers -- right-handers Ricardo Rodriguez and Jason Davis and left-handers Billy Traber and Brian Tallet -- are battling for the two open spots.

Wedge has said the young pitchers are even going into camp, but it seems Rodriguez, who has the most major league experience of the four, has the inside track on one of the spots.

Davis, who might have the best arm in the organization, made the jump from Class A Kinston to the majors last season. Traber, considered one of the keys to a trade that sent Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets after the 2001 season, and Tallet have put up impressive minor league numbers.

The questions continue with the position players. Catcher (Josh Bard) and shortstop (Omar Vizquel) are the only two infield spots locked up going into camp.

Travis Hafner, acquired from Texas in the off-season, has the edge over Ben Broussard at first base.

Base battles

The most interesting battle in camp will be at second base where John McDonald, who played well there the final two months of last season, and Brandon Phillips, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, will compete.

Third base is totally unsettled and might be all season. Ricky Gutierrez is recovering from neck surgery and isn't expected to be ready when camp breaks. Casey Blake, Bill Selby and Greg LaRocca will fight for the job, but the Indians could make a trade before the season begins.

"This will go deep into camp," Wedge said. "This particular spring is more important for them than some of the guys at the other positions. Any one of those three could win the job."

The Indians would like their outfield to be Matt Lawton in left, Milton Bradley in center and Karim Garcia in right.

Lawton, coming off shoulder surgery, has started a throwing program and is expected to be ready when the season begins. Shane Spencer, signed in the off-season, can play left and right and could get some at-bats at designated hitter and first base.

Ellis Burks, the team's only proven run-producer, will be the DH.




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