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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

Indians not wasting any time

BY MATT MARKEY AND RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

CLEVELAND - A 9-14 start in April of 2005 continued a trend of sluggish beginnings and left the Cleveland Indians scrambling to make up ground for the next five months.

The Tribe does not want to be in that position again, and following yesterday's 11-6 win over Minnesota, Cleveland has won three of its first four.

"The last few years, we've gotten off to some slow starts," Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "This season, there's been much more of an emphasis on getting off to a good start, and we had a good approach towards that today. I don't think you can ask for a better home opener."

The Indians got a pair of home runs from Hafner, who went

4-for-4, and a grand slam from No. 9 hitter Casey Blake.

"I think a lot of guys went through spring with that mindset - that we were going to focus on getting a solid start on the season and then just continue it from there," Hafner said. "It's still a long season, but a good start just puts you in a real positive frame of mind to begin with.

"I look around and I see there's a lot of talent in this clubhouse, and there's no reason not to expect to get off to a really good start," Hafner said. "Every guy in this room is concentrating on that, and they really expect to go out and win."

PHILLIPS TRADED: Infielder Brandon Phillips, a former starter and once highly touted prospect, was traded yesterday to the Cincinnati Reds for cash or a player to be named.

The Indians designated Phillips for assignment April 1, the day before they opened the regular season. Phillips won the starting job at second base in spring training in 2003 and was the Tribe's opening day starter. However, he struggled and was sent back to the minor leagues at the All-Star break after batting just .210 in 88 games.

Phillips, 24 has spent most of the last two seasons at Triple-A Buffalo. He was a September call-up to Cleveland both seasons, but batted just .129 (4-for-31) with one RBI.

The Indians had run out of options on Phillips, who came over with Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee in the six-player deal that sent Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos in June, 2002.

NICE RELIEF: New setup man Guillermo Mota was not called upon yesterday, but he did see action in two of the first three games. He has allowed one hit and no runs in 22/3 innings.

Mota appears to have put his injury-plagued 2005 season behind him.

He was injured twice last season and missed almost the month of May because of tendinitis in his elbow.

He also missed time with a nagging shoulder problem.

"When I came back from the elbow tendinitis, I was throwing different," Mota said. "I changed my mechanics, and maybe that's what caused the tendinitis in the shoulder. "But it was only tendinitis. I wasn't really hurt."

Mota took part in three different physical therapy programs this spring in an effort to strengthen his arm.

He was part of the January trade with the Boston Red Sox that brought third base phenom Andy Marte and catcher Kelly Shoppach to Cleveland in exchange for Coco Crisp, David Riske and Josh Bard.

SLAM TALK: When Cleveland right fielder Casey Blake ripped the first pitch he saw from Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse in the fifth inning yesterday onto the home run porch above left field, he continued a trend of opening day grand slams at Jacobs Field by the Indians.

Travis Hafner of the Indians hit a bases-loaded shot for the Tribe on April 12, 2004, that also came on opening day at the Jake against the Twins, also off Lohse. Travis Fryman turned the trick two years earlier with an opening day grand slam against the Twins in 2002.

STRIKES AND BALLS: Cleveland second baseman Ronnie Belliard left the game in the eighth inning with a tight calf muscle and is listed as day-to-day. ... After yesterday's win, the Indians are 56-50 all-time in home openers. ... In the 1902 season, the Indians did not open at home until May 6 . ... Gaylord Perry started four con-

secutive home openers for the Indians, from 1972-75. ... Bob Feller has the most opening day wins for the Tribe with four. ... The Indians have lost to Min-

nesota on opening day in Cleveland just once, on April 14, 1964, when Jim Perry, who had been traded from Cleveland to Min-

nesota the year before, beat the Tribe 7-6.



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