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Indians win without lost stars

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002

Juan Gonzalez is on the 15-day disabled list. Roberto Alomar is hitting .170 with the Mets.

About the only player the Indians might presently be missing is longtime outfielder Kenny Lofton, hitting . .375 for the White Sox.

Despite an offseason salary dump and lowered expectations, a seventh division title in eight years doesn't appear near as improbable for the Indians as it did when Gonzalez and Alomar's 55 homers and 240 RBIs in 2001 departed for Texas and New York.

"I'm surprised so many people jumped ship on us this winter," third baseman Travis Fryman said. "We still have a lot of good players on this team. We wanted to get off to a good start to prove that we are still the team to beat in this division."

After Saturday's rally over the Royals, Cleveland (11-1) has the best record in the majors, outscoring the Twins 31-17 in a four-game sweep of the top two teams in the AL Central last season.

The 71 runs scored through Friday were the second most in the American League behind Toronto. The Indians had outscored opponents 71-34, outhomered them 16-4 and were hitting .341 with runners in scoring position.

There's more.

The pitching staff led the AL with a 2.94 ERA and five saves. Indians starters were 10-0 with a 3.19 ERA after C.C. Sabathia allowed one run in six innings against the Royals on Friday.

"I wish I had the answer, but I don't," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I just hope it stays that way."

FIRING FOLLOWUP: The firing of Phil Garner by the Tigers after an 0-6 start marked the quickest canning in the majors since 1988.

The Orioles began that season 0-6, fired Cal Ripken Sr. and replaced him with Frank Robinson. Baltimore subsequently lost another 15 straight.

With new manager Luis Pujols, the Tigers were 0-3 through Friday.

STEADY GLOVE: Mariners third baseman Jeff Cirillo was four games from tying the major-league mark for consecutive errorless games by a third baseman after Friday.

Cirillo had not made an error in 95 games. The record was set by former Pirates infielder John Wehner, whose streak began in 1992 and ended with a throwing error on Sept. 29, 2000, the final game played at Three Rivers Stadium.

Cirillo, whose streak began with the Rockies on June 20, 2000, has a .965 career fielding percentage as a third baseman.

"I didn't look at the boxscores since the season started," Wehner said. "Now that I'm aware, I'll definitely look. I'd be lying if I said I wanted him to break it. Hank (Aaron) can tell Barry (Bonds) that records are made to be broken, but that's the only thing I've got. Oh, heck, if he wants it, he can have it. I'd rather he tie me, but wish him luck."

ELI WHO?: Though his 22 at-bats weren't enough to register among the league leaders, Cardinals utilityman Eli Marrero has been nearly unstoppable.

Listed as a catcher in the media guide, Marrero has been behind the plate for just four of 451/3 innings he'd played through Friday. Still the career .236 hitter, who is arbitration eligible at the end of this season, was hitting .545 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run and 2 stolen bases.

"We just need to see what he can do, to try to get him as many at-bats as possible," St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty said. "I'm not sure where those at-bats will be but I'm pretty sure Tony (La Russa) will get him in there as much as he can."

ODDS AND ENDS: The 52,000 miles the A's will have traveled by the end of this season will be the most in the majors. Seattle will be second with 46,000. ... Cardinals first baseman Tino Martinez is hitting .171 in 35 at-bats. All six hits are singles. ... The umpire who tossed Marlins manager Jeff Torborg and Mike Lowell for arguing a home run on Monday at Pro Player Stadium was Tim McClelland, who ruled George Brett had too much pine tar on his bat after a home run against the Yankees on July 24, 1983.

THE LAST WORD: "These guys are like two NASCAR drivers. They're drafting each other, trying to top each other, and that's good for me." -- Arizona manager Bob Brenly on Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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