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Top prospect intent on making the team



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



Grady Sizemore knows the outfield is crowded, but feels he's ready.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- Grady Sizemore doesn't want to go back to the minor leagues, and the Cleveland Indians would rather not send him there.

But with a glut of outfielders, Sizemore doesn't have a spot assured on the opening day roster.

"My goal is to make the team," he said. "I'll do whatever I can. This is where I want to be."

Casey Blake and Coco Crisp are guaranteed spots in the outfield, and if Juan Gonzalez makes the team, Sizemore will begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo.

If the Gonzalez experiment fizzles, Sizemore is expected to be the Indians' center fielder.

"We told him before camp, if he isn't a starter, it's more than likely he'd go back to Buffalo, but that's not set in stone," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.

Sizemore is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. The Indians view the 22-year-old as a multi-talented player who will hit for high average, steal bases, run balls down in center and play hard every day.

He showed hustle and hit .246 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 43 games with the Indians last season.

"I got my feet wet," he said. "I got a chance to see what the major leagues are all about. I got to see what it takes to be up here."

No letting up

Sizemore's all-out effort caught everyone's attention. He runs hard to first on even routine grounders, takes out infielders and bowls over catchers.

Wedge described Sizemore's style as "old-school."

"That's the way I was brought up," Sizemore said. "I've always played 100 percent. Running out a ground ball won't hurt you. Nine times out of 10 you will probably be out, but maybe on the 10th time, you'll beat it out."

Many young players become content once they get to the majors, but that's not the case with Sizemore.

"I need to be more consistent at the plate," he said. "I need to get my arm strength up and get better jumps on balls. I want to improve on my base running and my base stealing. I want to work on all aspects of the game."

Sizemore, who was acquired from Montreal in 2002 along with left-hander Cliff Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips for right-hander Bartolo Colon, said he's not dwelling on possibly starting the season in the minors.

"That's in my mind, but it's not what I'm focused on," Sizemore said. "I can't control where I go. I'll go out and work hard. If I make the club, that would be great. If not, I'll keep working."

Notes

C.C. Sabathia will be the opening day starter on April 4 in Chicago, Wedge said Friday. ... Wedge is pleased with the progress of LHPs Billy Traber and Brian Tallet. Both are coming off elbow surgery. ... Sizemore was one of eight players to sign one-year contracts Friday. The others were Phillips, Lee, 1B Ben Broussard, OF Jody Gerut and RHPs Jason Davis, Francisco Cruceta and Kyle Denney.




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