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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Phillips gets to face Colon

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Brandon Phillips, the centerpiece of the Bartolo Colon trade last June, couldn't wait to face the hard-throwing right-hander yesterday.

His first encounter came with the bases loaded in the second inning.

After battling Colon for nine pitches, Phillips hit a sharp grounder to first base. He was able to beat the relay throw on a double play to put the Indians on top. However, Colon's Chicago White Sox ended up rallying for a 5-3 victory in 10 innings at Jacobs Field.

“I just hung in there as long as I could on that at-bat in the second,” Phillips said. “When the count got to 3-2, I fouled off three tough pitches in a row. I was just happy to get the ball on the ground and drive in a run on the fourth swing.

“It was nice to finally face the dude I got traded for. He does throw as hard as everyone said.”

Phillips, the Indians' 21-year-old starting rookie second baseman, was acquired from the Montreal Expos along with pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Grady Sizemore in exchange for Colon, pitcher Tim Drew and cash. Colon then was dealt to the White Sox in a three-team deal in January.

Phillips was 0-for-4 yesterday and has just two hits in 20 at-bats, yet he has his sights set on becoming an All-Star-caliber performer.

“I don't want to be a normal player in the big leagues,” he said. “I want to be a star. I want to work on everything in my game. I want to be like A-Rod [Texas' Alex Rodriguez]. I want to be a fan favorite. I want people to come to the ballpark and see me and the Cleveland Indians.”

Phillips, a natural shortstop regarded as the top prospect in Cleveland's organization, was moved to second in the Arizona Fall League in order to sidestep All-Star Omar Vizquel, the Tribe's shortstop since 1994.

Phillips beat out veteran John McDonald for the job with a solid spring training - both at the plate and in the field.

“Brandon's done an exceptional job of learning the pivot at second base,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He has an incredible feel for the bag and he understands what he needs to do to turn the double play.

“We also needed him to show some discipline at the plate and he showed us that, while still being the offensive player we know he's capable of being.”

Phillips credits the slick-fielding McDonald for helping him make the speedy transition.

“If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't even be here right now,” he said.

Said McDonald: “Brandon's got a lot of potential. He asks a lot of questions. He wants to learn; he wants to get better. I have no doubt that he will.”

ODDS & ENDS: The Indians said yesterday they expect left-hander C.C. Sabathia (sore left elbow) to make his scheduled start against the Kansas City Royals Saturday. ... First baseman Ben Broussard was activated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, where he is rehabbing from a strained right oblique muscle.

MINOR LEAGUE NO-HITTER: Indians minor leaguers Fernando Cabrera, Aaron Myette and Jose Vargas combined on a no-hitter yesterday as Double-A Akron routed Harrisburg 15-0.

Cabrera pitched the first five innings, striking out nine and walking three before Myette and Vargas each pitched two hitless innings.



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