WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Casey Blake is going to miss some aspects of being an everyday outfielder. Mainly, he'll long for the yawner moments. "You can just straight chill in the outfield," Blake said. "The game can be on the line out there, and you're like, 'Yeah, whatever.'" Moving in to first base, where he's currently slated to be the Tribe's starter against right-handed pitching, won't allow Blake to be so carefree.
"It's more stressful," he said. "When you get balls bounced to you and they're hit hard and you're that close to home plate, it's stressful." Luckily for the Indians, Blake stresses a team-first mentality, so he doesn't put up a fight when the subject of his bouncing around between various positions comes up. The bulk of his starts this year should come at first base -- a position at which he has only 64 games of big-league experience -- though he could also end up spelling Andy Marte at third. And when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, he'll probably be back out in right field, where he was an everyday starter the past two seasons. "The tough side is getting him prepared fundamentally and trying to protect him physically, and not let it affect him mentally," manager Eric Wedge said of this balancing act. "That's the way I look at this thing. It's going to be a daily thing in terms of what we put together." When putting together this team this winter, general manager Mark Shapiro and Wedge had at their disposal the luxury that is Blake's pliability. "These [type of] guys are extremely valuable in a game," Wedge said. "And then, from a character standpoint, if you've got somebody you don't have to worry about and you can put that in the hopper, you've got a special player. And that's what Casey is." Now, the Indians just have to keep him healthy. Moving around the diamond certainly won't be easy on Blake's body, and he's coming off an '06 season in which he missed one month with a strained left oblique muscle and another with a sprained right ankle. Despite the injuries, Blake was able to put together a pretty consistent offensive season, batting .282 with 19 homers and 68 RBIs in 109 games. This year, the Indians will be counting on him to produce out of the fifth or sixth spot of the batting order, in addition to being a do-everything option in the field. "It's all right," Blake said of bouncing around. "I guess being on the field is all that matters. I see myself as a good all-around athlete. I think I can handle it." Let the games begin: Spring Training workouts waste no time getting tedious, which is why players always welcome the first taste of actual game action.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.