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Published: Monday, 4/30/2001

Tribe long shot is a .400 hitter

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Marty Cordova was a long shot to make the Cleveland Indians' roster out of spring training.

So long, in fact, that if third baseman Travis Fryman hadn't started the season on the disabled list, Cordova likely would be playing for Triple-A Buffalo right now.

That's because if Fryman were healthy, Russell Branyan would be playing in the outfield rather than at third.

Thus far, Fryman's injury has benefited Cordova, who has made the most of his playing time after hitting .442 in spring training.

Cordova started in right field yesterday and was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer in the Indians' 9-2 rout of the Texas Rangers.

He is batting .405 (17-for-42) with four homers and 12 RBIs in his 11 starts. He's hitting .409 overall.

“It's fine with me if he hits .400,'' Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. “Heck, I'd like to see him hit .450.

“Marty's been swinging the bat good for us. He has really been hitting the ball hard since spring training. He's been hitting the ball to all fields. That's been a big plus for us. He's getting the job done.''

The Indians signed Cordova as a minor-league free agent in the off-season. He is being paid $600,000 this year.

He won American League rookie of the year honors with the Minnesota Twins in 1995 and played there five seasons before signing with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent last year.

The Red Sox cut Cordova in camp and he eventually hooked up with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he batted just .245 in 62 games.

For now, Cordova appears to have rejuvenated his career with the Tribe.

“I wouldn't say that,'' Cordova said. “I really don't feel like my career went anywhere. It's just a matter of getting the job done when you get out there. I had a different role last year with Toronto. I wasn't accustomed to not playing every day, and I maybe didn't prepare myself properly.

“This year, I've changed the way I prepare and it's paid off so far.''

Cordova has a six-game hitting streak, batting .435 (10-for-23).

“He's hitting the ball well,'' Branyan said. “He's hitting it all over the place, and he's coming through for us. It's fun to watch a guy like Marty go to the plate and have an aggressive swing. He lays off tough pitches, fights and battles, and puts the ball in play. He's really helped us.''

WRIGHT ON: Jaret Wright threw in a bullpen session yesterday, and said he was happy with how his arm felt.

Wright, attempting to bounce from off-season surgery on his right shoulder, will join Tribe right-hander Charles Nagy at Triple-A Buffalo. He is scheduled to start Wednesday against Rochester.

“I think I answered all the questions in spring training about how my arm feels, my endurance, and maintaining my velocity,'' Wright said. “For me, the competition at Buffalo will answer the next set of questions, because I will get to face guys with major league experience.''

ODDS & ENDS: Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis attended yesterday's game. ... The Indians averaged 36,661 fans in 14 April home dates, the most in franchise history for the month. ... Steve Woodard made his rehab start for Double-A Akron yesterday, allowing three hits and one run in three innings. He walked one and struck out two, and threw 41 pitches, including 27 strikes. ... Rangers reliever Mark Petkovsek entered this weekend with a 202.50 ERA at Jacobs Field. He gave up two runs and three hits in 11/3 innings Saturday, yet lowered his ERA to 76.50. In two innings at the Jake, Petkovsek has yielded 17 earned runs and 20 hits. ... Indians slugger Juan Gonzalez has 370 career homers. He needs 10 more to pass Orlando Cepeda and move into first place among Puerto Rican-born players in the majors. ... The Indians are 4-4 against left-handers.



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