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INDIANS Kent, Biggio lead Astros' 7-6 win



Published: Sat, March 29, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jose Santiago has earned a spot in the Cleveland bullpen.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Jeff Kent did a little bit of everything in his return to Houston's lineup. Some good, some bad.

Kent had an RBI single, a fielding error and nearly a throwing miscue Tuesday and Craig Biggio homered to lead the Astros to a 7-6 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Kent missed the last five games with a strained right forearm, and he was a bit rusty in his first game back. But the time off didn't change his sense of humor.

In the second inning, Kent lost his grip on the ball while making a return throw to first on a double play and nearly tossed it into Cleveland's dugout. Only catcher Gregg Zaun's hustle down the line saved Kent's wild throw.

"Oh, that knuckleball," Kent said.

An inning later, Kent, who signed with the Astros as a free agent in December, booted Karim Garcia's grounder for an error.

He offset his sloppiness in the field with an RBI single in the third off Jason Bere (2-2) and ended his day by striking out to end the fifth.

Afterwards, Kent joked about his uneven day.

"I didn't want to make a throw, so I kicked it on purpose," he said of the error. "I was already tired so I struck out on purpose. Otherwise, things went just fine."

Bere tagged

Not for Bere, who was tagged for five earned runs and eight hits in five innings.

Biggio opened the game with a homer to left, and the Astros added three runs in the second off the right-hander, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason despite going 1-10 last season for the Chicago Cubs.

Indians manager Eric Wedge gave away another spot in his bullpen to Jose Santiago. The move came as somewhat of a surprise.

Cleveland has an abundance of young pitchers to choose from and the club rarely talked about the right-hander this spring.

"He's done a good job," Wedge said. "He's a very durable guy. He was in the mix from Day One."

The 28-year-old Santiago, who had a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings this spring, was with Philadelphia last season. He has also pitched for Kansas City.

Wedge has one more opening in his bullpen with Aaron Myette, Billy Traber or Chad Paronto likely to get the job.

Ellis Burks and Shane Spencer homered for the Indians, who got 10 hits off Brian Moehler (2-1) in five innings. Cleveland's Casey Blake went 3-for-5, raising his average to .490 (25-for-51).




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