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BASEBALL Indians close to signing Spencer

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The veteran outfielder has spent his entire career with the Yankees.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Outfielder Shane Spencer has reached an agreement on a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians where he could get the chance to play every day.
Spencer's agent, David Trimble, said Thursday that the deal is contingent on Spencer passing a physical exam next week.
Spencer, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in 2000, was never able to get 300 at-bats in a season with the New York Yankees.
Trimble said Spencer wants the opportunity to play every day.
"That was a requirement that he had for any team," Trimble said. "Not that he be a starter, but that he have the opportunity to get 450 at-bats."
Spencer, who turns 31 next month, appears to be the leading candidate to start in left field for the rebuilding Indians.
First baseman Ben Broussard, rookie outfielder Alex Escobar, who is returning from a knee injury, and veteran Matt Lawton, who had shoulder surgery in September, are the Indians other options.
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro declined to comment Thursday about his club's interest in Spencer. On Wednesday, Shapiro said he was close to signing a veteran outfielder.
Filling a void
The Indians, who are rebuilding after trading away most of their veterans last year, have been looking for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.
Spencer can offer the Indians depth in left and right fields, as well as designated hitter and first base, where he played one game for the Yankees, Trimble said.
He said several teams offered Spencer the opportunity to get the at-bats he desired.
"In the end, Shane chose Cleveland because of the feedback he got from [manager] Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro and because they are young and trying to get better and have a winning tradition and are trying to get back to that," Trimble said.
A message was left with Spencer seeking comment.
Spencer became an overnight star in the 1998 postseason for the Yankees, but never became an everyday player.
He homered in his first playoff at-bat, hitting a solo homer off Texas' Rick Helling in Game 2 of the division series. Spencer hit a three-run homer in New York's 4-0 win in Game 3 of the series.
Spencer batted .234 in 71 games with the Yankees in 1999, and was the club's starting left fielder on opening day in 2000.
He was batting .282 with nine homers and 40 RBIs when he blew out his knee while fielding a double in a July 9 game against the New York Mets.
Spencer has spent his entire 12-year career with the Yankees, who selected him in the 1990 draft.