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Spencer sought, gets more playing time



Published: Fri, March 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former Yankee has never had more than 288 at-bats in a season.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Shane Spencer is happy at any one of many positions -- just as long as that position is not on the bench.

"The reason I signed with Cleveland, plain and simple, was to play," Spencer said Monday after going 2-for-2 for the Indians against his former team, the New York Yankees.

When the 31-year-old signed with Cleveland in January, he gave up what seemed like an automatic annual trip to the postseason for a shot at playing regularly.

"I'm more excited right now, and it is only spring training, than I have been in three or four years," he said.

"I've played a lot already. In spring training you don't want to overdo it, so I didn't mind not starting against the Yankees.

"It did feel good to play and get a couple hits, though."

Spencer homered and doubled off David Wells to improve his average to .417.

"It was a little odd facing him," Spencer admitted. "He was one of the first guys who took me under his wing when I got to the Yankees. He called me after I left and wished me luck."

Wants more playing time

What Spencer wanted most was playing time. The most at-bats he ever got in one season in New York was 288.

"I came here because [Indians manager] Eric Wedge said he would try to get me 400-450 times up, but anything over 280 is a plus," Spencer said. "I'll be playing in left field, right, some DH, a little first base.

"Maybe I won't play every day, but at least it won't be sitting for a week."

Spencer said he understands that his regular role will be to share time with those who actually have a set position.

"He assured me there is room for everybody and he's been a man of his word," Spencer said of Wedge.

"All of us have played a lot already and I am very comfortable."

Instant favorite

Spencer became an instant fan favorite as a rookie in the 1998 postseason by hitting two homers in the division series.

He became the Yankees' starting left fielder to start 2000. He was batting .282 with nine homers and 40 RBIs when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on July 9.

He never played regularly for the Yankees again, but said he misses New York.

"I think the first trip back there will be emotional for me, that is if I make it," he said.

"My wife is pregnant and due around that time [mid-July], so we will see.

"I really was fortunate there. Even when I would be going bad, the fans never got down on me."

That same attitude by Spencer is one reason Wedge wanted him in Cleveland.

"Shane's a professional in the way he handles himself no matter the situation," Wedge said.

"I've got enough confidence in him to know he'll get the job done no matter where he plays."




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