Gutierrez Hoping For Fresh Start - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Gutierrez Hoping For Fresh Start

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Ricky Gutierrez's first 59 games with the Cleveland were forgettable. He was awful before getting injured, and the second baseman knows it.

He can't start over, although he wishes he could.

"I have to forget about the first two months," he said Saturday.

Gutierrez has been a major disappointment to Cleveland -- and himself -- in his first season with the Indians, who signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract in December.

Gutierrez was eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, but the Indians are going to wait a few days so he can get some at-bats at Triple-A Buffalo.

He has been sidelined since June 16 with a strained left groin he injured while hustling home from first to score the winning run.

It's been that kind of start for Gutierrez with the Indians. At the time he got hurt, the .267 career hitter, was batting .248 and had grounded into 11 double plays.

In addition, he was batting .188 with runners in scoring position, but just .103 with runners at second or third and two outs. And his defense hasn't made the Roberto Alomar trade any easier to swallow.

"The thing I've been most disappointed about has been my clutch hitting," Gutierrez said. "And my strikeouts."

He has already struck out 31 times in 226 at-bats this season, after fanning 56 times in 528 at-bats a year ago for the Chicago Cubs.

"I just been trying to get back to the basics, and just worry about hitting the ball hard. I'm trying to find myself," said Gutierrez, who has been taking batting practice since being injured. "I've got to go back to what's got me through the last two years."

Gutierrez said the adjustment to a new league as well as changing positions -- he played short with the Cubs -- has contributed to his slow start.

"It's different pitching in the AL," Gutierrez said. "You don't know what they're going to do. In certain situations they throw fastballs when you wouldn't expect them (in the NL)."

Gutierrez thinks the time off has healed his groin and his game.

"Sitting back might have been good for me," he said. "I was playing pretty well before I got hurt and hopefully I can get things turned around."

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WHO? FOR WHAT?: Brandon Phillips was shaking his head like everyone else.

Phillips, one of the three minor league prospects acquired in the Bartolo Colon trade, said he was shocked when he heard he was part of the surprising six-player deal with Montreal.

"I said, 'Wow,'" the 21-year-old shortstop said. "Colon is one of the top three pitchers in baseball, period. He throws 103 mph. It was a compliment to be included in a trade for someone like that."

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

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