Cordero Shapes Up For Indians ... Finley Pitches Gem

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) - Wil Cordero slipped on his new bathing suit, looked in the mirror and didn't like the reflection -- his body was badly out of shape.

And his playing career wasn't much prettier.

"I knew I had to do something," he said.

Coming off an embarrassing 2001 season with the Cleveland Indians, Cordero got the suit as a Christmas present, a gift from his two children. But when he tried it on, Cordero said it clung tightly to his thighs.

"We were going on vacation in Miami, on the beach, and I didn't want to look all fat," Cordero said.

But as bad as his body looked, Cordero also realized his game was just as unattractive.

So, for the first time in his career, he hired a personal trainer and spent the winter getting buff in the gym.

He arrived at spring training camp with a new, slimmed-down body -- he lost 15 to 20 pounds -- and a new attitude.

Cordero says he's a new man.

"Any time you have a season like I did you have to be disappointed," he said. "I'm only 30 years old and I think I've got a lot of baseball left. I want to show people that I can still play. There are people who don't think I can."

Cordero's numbers were ugly last season.

In 301 at-bats, he batted .250, his lowest average since 1993.

He hit just four homers, his fewest since 1996. And his 21 RBIs were his lowest total since 1992.

During one stretch, Cordero went over two months and 86 at-bats without driving in a run. He hit just .119 (5-for-42) with two outs and runners in scoring position, the third-worst average in the AL.

And maybe worse, he didn't seem to care.

Indians fans grumbled about his lack of productivity, his lack of hustle and his $4 million contract. With Ellis Burks nursing a broken thumb in the second half and Travis Fryman unable to generate any power because of a bum shoulder, Cordero was the one right-handed batter the Indians needed to have come through.

He rarely did.

"I really don't know what happened last year," he said. "It bothered me, though."

He took out his frustrations by pumping some iron. Next, he plans to take some more out on AL pitchers. This is the final year of Cordero's contract, and he knows if he's going to get another one, he's going to have to show he can play.

"I'm ready to go," he said.

When the Indians decided to trade Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets and not to re-sign Juan Gonzalez this winter, the moves affected Cordero more than any other Cleveland player. He's longtime friends with both All-Stars, and was surprised to see them leave.

"It's not often when a team has a chance to have two superstars like that," he said. "You would hope that they would have kept one of them. It's hard to see guys leave, especially when you are close to them."

There's no denying the Indians are different. But it's not just because their lineup isn't as fearsome, Cordero said.

"It's about having the right attitude," he said. "And we have guys here who want to win."

Cordero's desire to win has been an issue in the past. There also have been times when he has had to leave the club to tend to personal issues. But after one recent exit this spring, manager Charlie Manuel talked to Cordero about his commitment.

"It helped me," Cordero said. "It gave me an idea of what he expected of me. After that we got a better feel for each other. He knows what he's going to get from me."

Manuel said the talk was productive.

"I know I got something out of it," Manuel said. "I think Wil did, too."


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) - Chuck Finley tuned up for the season by overpowering some Reds minor leaguers Sunday, pitching six shutout innings as the Cleveland Indians beat Cincinnati 5-0.

Finley (1-1), whose previous two starts this spring came in minor league games, faced a Cincinnati team that didn't have a single regular in its lineup.

"A little light today, wasn't it?" Indians manager Charlie Manuel said of the Reds' ragtag lineup. "It would have been nice to see Griffey or Dunn. But there's not much I can do about it."

The 39-year-old Finley allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six.

Omar Vizquel had a run-scoring triple for his team-leading 16th RBI. Newly acquired backup catcher Eddie Perez had two RBIs for Cleveland.

Juan Acevedo (0-1), who will be in Cincinnati's starting rotation this season, gave up three runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.

But Acevedo was one of the few "name" players the Reds brought along to play their in-state AL counterparts. Instead, Cincinnati left its regulars behind to get some rest or extra work back in Sarasota and brought a cast of backups and minor leaguers on the two-hour bus ride to face Finley.

Major league baseball has a long-standing directive that requires teams to bring a minimum of four regulars on road games. Sandy Alderson, baseball's executive vice president of on-field operations, said he would look into the Reds' actions only if the Indians complained.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro doesn't plan to.

"It's disappointing," Shapiro said. "It doesn't give us a chance to see our players against their starters so we can prepare for the season. But I don't think it's appropriate to do anything to formally protest it."

And while 6,803 fans may have felt slighted at not seeing Barry Larkin or Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati manager Bob Boone said he didn't do it intentionally.

"I'm certainly not trying to be insulting," he said. "There's definitely reasons for it."

Larkin and Griffey had each missed time with minor injuries, and after they played Saturday, Boone wanted to give them another day's rest.

After the Reds' cast of minor leaguers arrived for Sunday's games, fans spent much of batting practice trying to figure out who they were.

Minor league infielder Kevin Witt was mistaken for one of the Reds' well known outfielders.

"I'm not Adam Dunn, everybody," Witt yelled. "I'm not Adam Dunn."

Notes: Indians RHP Jaret Wright will undergo another MRI on his sore right shoulder this week in Los Angeles. Wright, who has had shoulder surgery in each of the past two years, left camp last week with stiffness and will start the year on the disabled list. ... RHP Charles Nagy will make an important start on Monday against Toronto. Nagy, who will make $6 million in 2002, could begin the season as a long reliever or on the DL. Nagy is pitching with little cartilage in his elbow and has had a so-so spring. ... Following the game, the Reds reassigned C Jesse Levis, INFs Ranier Olmedo and Kevin Witt and OFs Raul Gonzalez and Anthony Sanders to their minor league camp.

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