February 27, 2002 at 11:24 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:00 PM
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) - As a veteran leadoff hitter, Brady Anderson knows the importance of getting off to a good start.
So even at age 38, it is no surprise the outfielder shows constant hustle and desire in his first spring training with his new team, the Cleveland Indians.
"You look at Brady, he's in great shape," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he has a lot of good baseball left in him. All he needs to do is get back to hitting the ball like he did a couple years ago."
Manuel doesn't expect the 1996 Anderson, when he set career highs of 50 homers, 110 RBIs, 117 runs and a .297 average with the Baltimore Orioles. A replication of 1999 would do just fine -- .282, 24 homers, 81 RBIs and 36 stolen bases.
What just won't do is another year like 2001, when Anderson plummeted to .202 with just eight homers.
"I felt great last year physically, but for some reason I got off to a bad start and pressed at the plate," Anderson said. "I tried to do too much.
"It's the same for everybody, no matter how experienced you are. You have to let the game come to you, take what is there. For some reason, I never got comfortable enough last year to do that."
Some have said the Orioles' losing record the last two years wore on the proud and hard-working veteran.
"It's a fresh start here for me in two ways," Anderson said. "After 14 years in Baltimore, it's a little more exciting to be here blending in with new players. I look forward to getting my game back and contributing."
Released in mid-November, he signed with Cleveland two weeks later.
"When I signed, they said they were looking for a leadoff hitter," Anderson said.
With Kenny Lofton gone through free agency, the top spot in the Indians' order is up for grabs. Manuel said right-fielder Matt Lawton, who had 29 stolen bases in 2001, "probably" is the No. 1 candidate for the role.
"You want a guy that steals bases and has a high on-base percentage. Brady used to steal a lot. He has a lot of experience in the role," Manuel said.
Anderson had 230 steals from 1992-99, but stole just 12 last year. Of course, he was not nearly on base as much, totaling only 87 hits and 60 walks.
"I always keep myself in great shape, so being able to run is not a problem," Anderson said. "What I have to do is get my tempo down at the plate, get everything back in rhythm."
Notes: RHP Jake Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow and is not expected back until at least June. ... LHP C.C. Sabathia, who went 17-5 as a rookie in 2001, yielded one run on three hits over two innings and struck out four in a six-inning intrasquad game. "I was shakin' in my boots in my first intrasquad game last year," Sabathia said. "I was a lot more comfortable this time." ... INF John McDonald (flu), 1B/OF Wil Cordero (sore back) and OF Milton Bradley (sore right shoulder) were unavailable. ... Minor-league 3B Greg LaRocca had two hits including a wind-blown homer. ... LHP Billy Traber, acquired in the deal that sent 2B Roberto Alomar to the Mets in December, allowed one hit over two innings as did LHP Jason Stanford.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)