Gonzalez returns to Indians outfield

Posted: Monday, March 28, 2005

Juan Gonzalez is back in the middle of the Cleveland Indians' lineup. Andy Pettitte also hooked up with some old friends — the New York Yankees.

Gonzalez won a starting job and will begin the 2005 season as Cleveland's everyday right fielder, returning to the spot where he had one of his most productive years and adding a powerful bat to the offense.

''Juan brings us a presence,'' Indians manager Eric Wedge said Sunday in Winter Haven, Fla. ''I hope it makes the team better and him better.''

In making Cleveland's opening-day roster, the 35-year-old Gonzalez earned a $500,000 bonus. He can make an additional $1.95 million if he reaches incentives based on plate appearances and overall days on the active roster.

His surprising addition also means that Grady Sizemore, the organization's rising star, will begin the season at Triple-A Buffalo. Sizemore batted .291 with one homer and 10 RBIs this spring, but struck out 14 times in 55 at-bats.

While the 22-year-old Sizemore is a better fit with Cleveland's collection of young players, his resume is no match for Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP who, when healthy, is still one of the game's most feared hitters.

But Gonzalez's problem is staying on the field. In the past three seasons, he has played in just 185 games — 33 with Kansas City a year ago because of a bad back.

Gonzalez hasn't played more than 82 games since 2001, when he batted .325 with 35 homers and 140 RBIs for the Indians. But just having him in the lineup — he'll bat fifth — or standing in the on-deck circle will improve the offense.

At Tampa, Fla., Pettitte felt comfortable on the mound — and off — in his latest start. The left-hander allowed two runs and three hits in four innings against his former team, but the Houston Astros lost 7-4 to the Yankees.

''It was definitely strange,'' Pettitte said. ''It was a good day to come and see some of the guys. It was a great experience being here for nine years.''

After spending 1995-03 in New York, Pettitte signed with the Astros as a free agent. He went 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA in an injury-plagued first season in Houston, making just 15 starts. Pettitte had season-ending elbow surgery in August.

''He looks good,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

In the third, Derek Jeter tripled and scored on Alex Rodriguez's homer off Pettitte, who struck out one and walked one. He threw 60 pitches, 34 strikes.

Pettitte has given up four runs — three earned — over seven innings in two exhibition starts. He also threw two scoreless innings in a ''B'' game and expects to be ready for his first regular-season start April 6 against St. Louis.

''I feel good about where I am,'' Pettitte said. ''I'm still a work in progress. I feel good, but I'm not where I want to be.''

Pettitte received a warm ovation from the Legends Field crowd when he was introduced before the game and when he took the mound in the first inning.

In other spring training games:

Red Sox 8, Pirates 7

At Fort Myers, Fla., Tim Wakefield allowed one run in six innings and Boston scored seven times off Mark Redman — six earned.

Indians 6, Devil Rays 3

At Winter Haven, Fla., on decision day for the Indians, Gonzalez and shortstop Jhonny Peralta affirmed the club's choices.

Gonzalez doubled twice and drove in a run and Peralta went 3-for-4 with an RBI before both learned they had won starting jobs.

Blue Jays 4, Tigers 0

At Dunedin, Fla., Pete Walker and four relievers combined on a one-hitter. Craig Monroe's fifth-inning double off Brandon League was the only hit allowed by the Blue Jays, who struck out 13 batters.

Dodgers 11, Braves 6

At Vero Beach, Fla., Jeff Kent homered, doubled and drove in three runs against Tim Hudson. Nick Green and Andruw Jones homered off Dodgers starter Derek Lowe in the sixth. It was Jones' eighth of the spring.

Phillies 5, Reds 0

At Clearwater, Fla., Pat Burrell hit a pair of homers and Randy Wolf pitched five shutout innings. Wolf and four relievers combined on a four-hitter and Chase Utley added a solo homer for the Phillies, who roughed up former teammate Eric Milton.

Cardinals 7, Marlins 3

At Jupiter, Fla., Mark Grudzielanek had three hits, raising his spring training average to .380. Cardinals starter Jason Marquis bounced back from two rough outings, allowing two runs and two hits in six innings.

Mets 9, Nationals 4

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Mike Piazza hit a mammoth home run and Jose Reyes tripled with the bases loaded.

Twins 11, Orioles 3

At Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Michael Restovich hit a grand slam to cap a seven-run first inning, and Michael Cuddyer had a three-run shot to lead Minnesota. Sammy Sosa and Larry Bigbie homered for the Orioles.

Mariners 15, White Sox 9

At Peoria, Ariz., Ichiro Suzuki set a Seattle spring training record by getting a hit in his 16th straight game and drove in three runs.

Suzuki had two hits in five at-bats and is hitting .518 (28-for-54). He broke Ken Griffey Jr.'s record from 1986.

Angels 8, Giants 5

At Scottsdale, Ariz., Jarrod Washburn pitched seven sharp innings and had two hits and an RBI to lead the Angels.

Washburn allowed one run and six hits while striking out five and walking one. He retired 12 of his first 13 batters before Edgardo Alfonzo singled leading off the fifth.

Padres 9, Cubs 5

At Mesa, Ariz., Eric Young had two triples and three RBIs and Dave Roberts also drove in three runs for San Diego.

The Cubs announced that RHP Mark Prior will pitch a simulated gamed Monday. Prior has not pitched in a Cactus League game since his spring debut March 10 because of inflammation in his elbow and around his ulnar nerve.

Diamondbacks 13, Royals 5

At Tucson, Ariz., Troy Glaus went 2-for-3 with two RBIs for Arizona. He's hitting .545 with runners in scoring position (12-for-22) this spring.

Athletics 7, Rockies 3

At Phoenix, Oakland starter Rich Harden struck out eight to up his Cactus League leading total to 29.

Scott Hatteberg had three RBIs for Oakland and Mark Kotsay added three hits.

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