Indians Shocked By Colon Trade

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - As Mark Shapiro explained his many reasons for trading Bartolo Colon, workers outside Jacobs Field set up tents Friday for a weekend "garage" sale of Cleveland Indians' merchandise and memorabilia.

Actually, the Indians began peddling some of their inventory a day earlier.

Shapiro, Cleveland's first-year general manager, pulled off the second blockbuster trade of his tenure, dealing Colon (pictured, above) and pitcher Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos on Thursday for Lee Stevens and three minor league prospects.

In making the move, the Indians effectively gave up on the 2002 season as well as their transition plan.

The rebuilding has begun.

"It's a very difficult thing to do, transition and contend," said Shapiro, who in December sent All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets. "We couldn't. ... We have openly admitted that we're rebuilding."

Shapiro said the Indians decided to trade Colon now because they were convinced they wouldn't be able to get any more value for the right-hander, who has finally developed into one of baseball's elite pitchers.

Cleveland, which began the season 11-1, entered Friday night seven games behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central.

Less than 24 hours after learning of the deal, Indians players were still trying to make sense of Colon's departure.

"I don't think there are too many happy people around here right now," said shortstop Omar Vizquel. "You always hurt when you see one of the members of your family you grew up with gone. I don't think they're done yet, either. Anything can happen at this point."

The 29-year-old Colon was traded just when he had finally become the dominant No. 1 starter the Indians had been needing for years. That made the trade harder to understand for many of his former teammates.

"I'm not a general manager and not an owner," said right fielder Matt Lawton. "But if I had a team and there was one guy in the clubhouse I would build my staff around, he's the guy."

While Cleveland's players had a hard time accepting the deal, Indians fans were downright hostile about it. A few callers to local radio sports talk shows swore they would never follow the Indians again.

Shapiro expected a backlash from fans who have grown accustomed to the Indians winning six division titles in the past seven years.

"We knew we were going to take a hit," Shapiro said. "We took a hit already (with the Alomar trade). There will be a lot of fans that will stay and there will be a large base that will drop away."

Reliever Paul Shuey said he could understand why fans would be upset. He is too.

"Bartolo was our man," he said. "But the reality is that we're going through a rebuilding stage and it's a tough pill to swallow."

Shapiro is confident the prospects the Indians got for Colon: shortstop Brandon Phillips, outfielder Grady Sizemore and left-hander Cliff Lee will help the Indians get back to serious contention in 2004 or 2005.

"If you trade a player of Bartolo's caliber, you better not make an error," Shapiro said. "We're as sure as we can be that these are guys that we can bet on."

Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel is concerned about how the trade is being received in the clubhouse. He knows players are worried about being moved, and he planned to talk with each of the Indians about staying focused.

"You're getting paid to play the game and if you are a professional, you'll play the game the right way," he said.

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