By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Travis Fryman (pictured, right) says that his surgically repaired shoulder is getting better and that the Cleveland Indians will recover nicely from their off-season reconstruction.
Fryman clenched his teeth and played despite having a partially torn ligament in his right elbow and an injured shoulder in 2001.
He had his shoulder repaired last month.
The injuries resulted in a disastrous season for the veteran third baseman. He played in 98 games and batted .268 with three home runs last year after posting the best numbers of his career in the 2000 season.
"There weren't too many days when I had a whole lot of fun out there," Fryman said Tuesday at Jacobs Field. "It was a difficult year. Obviously, I don't want to repeat it. I'm looking forward to having a good year."
Even though the Indians will look much different next season because of trades and free agency, Fryman says they're still the American League Central Division's best team.
"We're the team to beat," he said. "I think we're going to be fine. We're still going to have a pretty good team."
Fryman, who underwent surgery on his right shoulder on Nov. 28, said he has begun throwing and expects to be ready for the start of training camp next month.
While favoring his sore elbow last season, Fryman said he damaged his chronically bad shoulder. He had a torn ligament in his rotator cuff repaired and some torn tissue trimmed.
Fryman said he first injured the shoulder while trying to break up a double play in 1996 while he was playing for the Detroit Tigers. It worsened last season when he changed his throwing motion to take stress off the elbow.
Fryman's elbow problems began last spring, when he reported to camp with soreness. He spent the first two months on the disabled list before being activated in June.
But he never was completely healthy and his play suffered.
"It's frustrating not being able to do what you always have," he said.
Deprived of power and afraid to swing too hard, Fryman didn't hit his first homer of 2001 until his 166th at-bat. In the field, the 2000 Gold Glove winner for his position had to fight through intense pain every time he made a throw.
"When I first came back, I didn't think I was going to be able to make it through the rest of the year," he said. "But it held up. It wasn't pretty, but it was functional."
Fryman, 32, said it was frustrating not to be able to play up to his standards. He joked that there were times it looked as though the Indians were conducting open auditions at third.
"There were like 10 guys taking grounders at third," he said.
The Indians have been undergoing an overhaul this winter. Fryman said that he was surprised Cleveland traded All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, and that Indians fans need to be patient while the club transforms.
"I thought we were going to keep the infield intact," Fryman said. "Sure, the loss of Robbie hurts. So does losing Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton."
Fryman, who is signed through next season with a club option for 2003, said he likes the idea of Cleveland changing its playing style from a power team to a club built on pitching, speed and defense.
"We're going to have to do the little things," he said. "We can't wait around for guys to hit three-run homers. We're going to have to make things happen."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)