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INDIANS Blake will show why he moved to outfield



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He's already learned a big difference from when he played third base.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Casey Blake wants to show the Cleveland Indians that they made the right call by moving their starting third baseman to the outfield.

He's already learned there's a big difference between the positions.

"One of the first things you learn is there is a lot more running," he said.

Blake played well enough the past two seasons to go from stopgap third baseman to starting outfielder, earning a spot in the everyday lineup even though the Indians signed Aaron Boone to take over at third.

"It will be different for me," Blake said of playing the outfield. "I have a lot to learn, but I have good teammates and good coaches. They're all helping me a lot."

A typical day for Blake finds him shagging flies on the back fields of the Indians' spring training complex. Coaches hit him dozens of balls, from routine flies to drives over his head to ground balls he has to charge.

Working out in both corners

Since the Indians don't know whether Blake will play left field or right, he moves between the two positions.

"It takes the ball longer to get to you," he said. "You don't have to be on your toes quite as much, but you have to be ready for when the ball is hit to you."

Being aware of game situations is another factor.

"When there's nobody on base and the ball is hit to you, you have to make sure it doesn't get by you," said Blake. "So maybe you won't charge in quite as hard on those. If there are guys on base, you can't lay back on it. On those, you have to charge in."

Having played third base, Blake thinks his arm is strong enough to make the throws from the outfield.

Signed as a minor league free agent after the 2002 season, Blake has had two steady years for the Indians, batting .257 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs during in 2003 and hitting .271 with 28 homers and 88 RBIs last year.

Indians manager Eric Wedge thinks Blake will make the adjustment.

"I'm confident Casey will get the job done," said Wedge. "He's a good athlete."

Blake's experience in the outfield consists of two games at Triple-A Edmonton. He knew he was headed there this season because of Boone's arrival and the fact that the Indians re-signed second baseman Ronnie Belliard, closing off the infield to Blake.

"Eric called me a lot in the off-season and kept me updated," said Blake. "I knew what was going on."

If Juan Gonzalez makes the team, Blake will play left field and Gonzalez will be in right. If Gonzalez's back doesn't hold up, Blake will play right field.

"There really isn't any difference between the two," Blake said.

Notes

Other than closer Bob Wickman, Wedge hasn't set roles for the rest of the bullpen. RHPs Bob Howry and David Riske and LHPs Arthur Rhodes and Scott Sauerbeck will be used in the late innings. "I don't think we have to predetermine anything," the manager said. "Having depth like that will keep people strong." ... Travis Hafner will get most of the DH at-bats, but Wedge said a number of players could fill in when Hafner gets a day off. ... The Indians will play intrasquad games Tuesday and Wednesday. The exhibition opener is Thursday against Houston.




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