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Blake gets 2-year deal from Tribe



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The third baseman will move to the outfield after agreeing to a $5.4 million contract.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- All those years in the minor leagues paid off for Casey Blake.

Blake agreed Friday to a $5.4 million, two-year contract with the Cleveland Indians, a deal that avoided salary arbitration.

"I never thought I'd have this opportunity to tell you the truth," Blake said. "I thought it was never going to happen to me."

Blake joined the Indians in 2003 as a stopgap measure at third base after spending most of the previous seven seasons in the minors. His solid offensive numbers and capable defense made him part of the club's long-term plans.

"What Casey did from there is a tribute to him," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "What made him persevere is his belief in himself, his love for the game."

Move to the outfield

Blake hit .271 with career highs of 28 homers and 88 RBIs in 152 games last season, ranking in the top five among AL third basemen in nearly every offensive category.

He faces a new challenge this season in moving from third base to the outfield to make way for Aaron Boone, who signed with the Indians during last season but couldn't play because of an injured left knee.

Blake will play left or right, depending on whether Juan Gonzalez makes the club as the starting right fielder, Shapiro said.

"I think I'll be fine out there," Blake said. "I don't see too much trouble. I have confidence I can catch and throw."

He said other than getting a bigger glove he hasn't done much to prepare for the move. He hasn't played outfield since 2002, when he was with Triple-A Edmonton in the Twins' organization.

After making $352,400 last year, Blake was eligible for arbitration for the first time. He gets $2.25 million this year and $3.05 million in 2006. Cleveland's 2007 option would cost between $3.75 million and $4.2 million. If the option is not exercised, Blake would get a $100,000 buyout.

In addition, Blake could earn $150,000 in performance bonuses in 2006.




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