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Major league season, Cleveland wide open

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Cleveland Indians' new era -- pitching instead of power hitting -- got off to an impressive start.

Bartolo Colon pitched a five-hitter to become the first Cleveland pitcher in 34 years to throw an opening-day shutout, and the Indians beat the Anaheim Angels 6-0 Sunday night as the 2002 major league baseball season began.

''I started strong and I finished strong,'' Colon said through an interpreter. ''I felt very confident with my breaking ball. They were sitting on my fastball, so my breaking ball kept them off-balance.''

After throwing just one complete games in 34 starts last year, Colon allowed four singles and a double, struck out five and walked two. He needed just 99 pitches to throw the fifth shutout of his career.

''That's the way I imagined him pitching,'' Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel said. ''He threw all his pitches, mixed in some breaking balls, threw his fastball on both sides of the plate.''

Anaheim catcher Bengie Molina, who went 0-for-3, was impressed by Colon's power and placement.

''Anyone who throws that hard and keeps it up in the zone is going to be successful,'' Molina said. ''He really got us tonight.''

Colon was among the many major leaguers who aged dramatically during the offseason, when new rules forced them to supply passports. At first he said he was 26, then said he was 27 and later admitted he was 28.

It was the first opening-day shutout in the major leagues since Dwight Gooden led the New York Mets over Colorado 3-0 in 1993 with a four-hitter. It was Cleveland's first shutout in an opener since Sonny Siebert's two-hit, 9-0 win over the Chicago White Sox in 1968.

The Angels were blanked on opening day for the second time in their 42-year history. The other was when Mel Stottlemyre beat them 1-0 at Yankee Stadium, also in 1968.

A day ahead of other major league teams, Cleveland and Anaheim took the field to show off their new uniforms and the season began at 5:18 p.m. PST -- 13 minutes late because of the ceremony.

Milton Bradley hit a two-run single in the first off Jarrod Washburn and Travis Fryman, who slumped to just three homers last year after hitting 22 the previous season, had a solo shot in the third.

''They've been so few and far between the last year or so, it felt pretty good,'' Fryman said. ''Last year I had a very difficult year and didn't swing the bat well at any point.''

He liked the way the Indians came out in the opener.

''We were aggressive, and we played the kind of baseball I hope that we can play all year long,'' Fryman said.

Navy SEAL members parachuted in to deliver the ball used for the ceremonial first pitch and President Bush delivered a videotaped message to the sellout crowd of 42,697.

The Indians have won six of the last seven AL Central titles but are without a World Series title since 1948. They jettisoned much of their hard-hitting offense -- including Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton -- in favor of pitching and a lower payroll.

Despite the departures, the Indians had plenty of offense in the opener, with 11 hits in a game that took just 2 hours, 23 minutes. Baseball is trying to speed along games this year, and Colon made it look easy in the early opener.

Ten other games are scheduled for Monday, the first full day of action in the 26-week regular season.

Anaheim, too, is a changed team, having traded slugger Mo Vaughn and signed pitcher Aaron Sele in an effort to win the World Series for the first time.

Washburn got in trouble immediately, walking leadoff man Matt Lawton. The Indians followed with four consecutive singles -- by Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Fryman.

Cleveland's first run scored when Vizquel singled and right fielder Tim Salmon threw wildly, allowing Lawton to come around from first.

Thome's bloop single to right scored another run and, after Ricky Gutierrez grounded into a bases-loaded double play, Bradley's single made it 4-0.

''It's kind of a blur now,'' Washburn said. ''I made some good pitches and they got a bat on them. That all just kind of exploded into a big inning for them. I think that killed any momentum we had going into the game. I didn't give us a chance right from the get-go.''

Fryman, who hit just one homer in 62 at-bats in the exhibition season, connected on a 2-1 pitch from Washburn in the third.

''I had a 2-0 changeup. He came back with a fastball, and it was the kind of pitch I was looking to hit,'' Fryman said.

Washburn gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings, with six strikeouts and one walk.

Einar Diaz added an RBI single in the ninth.

The game marked only the third time in Angels' history they have had a sellout crowd for their home opener. They did not have any before 1998.

Notes: Colon became the first Cleveland pitcher to start a season opener in three consecutive seasons since Gaylord Perry started four straight from 1972-74. ... The Indians opened the season with five players on the disabled list -- Alex Escobar (left knee), RHP Jaret Wright (shoulder), RHP Jake Westbrook (elbow), C Eddie Taubensee (back) and INF Jolbert Cabrera (gunshot wound). ... Salmon has started in each of the Angels' last 10 season openers. During the previous 10 seasons, 10 different players were in RF for them on opening day. ... Washburn became the sixth opening day starter in as many seasons for the Angels.



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