Colon Gets Indians' 2002 Experiment Started With Shutout

By KEN PETERS, AP Sports Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Bartolo Colon wanted to set an example for the rest of the Cleveland Indians' pitching staff, and boy, did he ever.

Colon crafted a five-hitter to become the first Cleveland pitcher in 34 years to throw an opening-day shutout -- and the first in baseball in nine years -- as the Indians beat Anaheim 6-0 Sunday night to begin the 2002 major league season.

"Being the No. 1 guy, this should give a boost to the other guys in the rotation. Now they have an idea of how to attack the (Angels') hitters," Colon said.

Throwing his fastball in the mid 90-mph range and mixing in well-placed breaking pitches, Colon held the Angels to four scattered singles, and a David Eckstein double. The Indians' right-hander struck out five, walked two and allowed only one runner as far as third, and another to reach second.

Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia was impressed that Colon not only went the distance, but that he blanked the Angels.

"I think that speaks volumes to how well he pitched," Scioscia said. "The first start out of the box, he's probably not as stretched out as he would be in June or July, when he could really push it to force the shutout.

"He was on the money the whole game. We battled, but we couldn't get any pressure on him early and he kept the pitch count down."

Colon, almost always ahead on the count, threw 99 pitches.

"I started strong and I finished strong," Colon said through an interpreter. "I felt very confident with my breaking ball. They were sitting on my fastball, so my breaking ball kept them off-balance."

Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel was delighted.

"That's the way I imagined him pitching," Manuel said. "He threw all his pitches, mixed in some breaking balls, threw his fastball on both sides of the plate."

It was Cleveland's first shutout in an opener since Sonny Siebert's two-hit, 9-0 win over the Chicago White Sox in 1968, and the majors' first since the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden pitched a four-hitter in a 3-0 win over Colorado in 1993.

The Angels were blanked on opening day for the second time in their 42-year history. The other was when Mel Stottlemyre beat them 1-0 at Yankee Stadium, also in 1968.

After throwing just one complete games in 34 starts last year, Colon got his fifth shutout in his first try of 2002.

Colon was among the many major leaguers who aged dramatically during the offseason, when new rules forced them to supply passports. At first he said he was 26, then said he was 27 and later admitted he was 28.

The Indians gave him all the support he would need in the opener when they scored four runs in the first inning off Jarrod Washburn. Travis Fryman, who slumped to just three homers last year after hitting 22 the previous season, added a solo shot in the third.

"They've been so few and far between the last year or so, it felt pretty good," Fryman said.

The defending AL Central champion Indians have won six of the last seven titles in the division, but are without a World Series title since 1948. They jettisoned much of their hard-hitting offense -- including Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton -- in favor of pitching and a lower payroll.

Despite the departures, the Indians had plenty of offense in the opener, with 11 hits in a game that took just 2 hours, 23 minutes. Baseball is trying to speed up games this year, and Colon made it look easy in the early opener.

Washburn got in trouble immediately, walking leadoff man Matt Lawton. The Indians followed with consecutive singles by Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Fryman.

Cleveland's first run scored when Vizquel singled and right fielder Tim Salmon threw wildly, allowing Lawton to come around from first.

Thome's bloop single to right scored another run and, after Ricky Gutierrez grounded into a bases-loaded double play, Milton Bradley singled home two runs.

"I made some good pitches and they got a bat on them," Washburn said. "That all just kind of exploded into a big inning for them. I think that killed any momentum we had going into the game. I didn't give us a chance right from the get-go."

Washburn gave up five runs and eight hits while throwing 91 pitches -- just eight fewer than Colon's entire game -- in five innings. Washburn struck out six and walked one.

The crowd was 42,697, only the third time in Angels' history they have sold out a home opener. They did not have any before 1998.

The game was the only one played on Sunday. Ten other games are scheduled for Monday, the first full day of action in the 26-week regular season.

Notes: Colon became the first Cleveland pitcher to start a season opener in three consecutive seasons since Gaylord Perry started four straight from 1972-74. ... The Indians opened the season with five players on the disabled list -- Alex Escobar (left knee), RHP Jaret Wright (shoulder), RHP Jake Westbrook (elbow), C Eddie Taubensee (back) and INF Jolbert Cabrera (gunshot wound). ... Salmon has started in each of the Angels' last 10 season openers. During the previous 10 seasons, 10 different players were in RF for them on opening day. ... Washburn became the sixth opening day starter in as many seasons for the Angels.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)