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Notes: Slocum out to impress Tribe

Notes: Slocum out to impress Tribe

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- It's difficult to determine which of Brian Slocum's two jobs keeps him busier these days.

In the mornings, he's a promising Indians pitching prospect gearing up for the 2007 season.

In the afternoons, he's pulling out his clippers and fulfilling his duties as the quasi-official team barber.

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"I've [cut the hair of] basically the whole coaching staff," Slocum said. "But I haven't done [manager Eric] Wedge. I'm working my way up."

Slocum hopes to work his way back up to the big leagues at some point this season. For now, he's slated to begin the year in the Triple-A rotation, where he'll look to take advantage of the lessons learned from two respectable starts in the Majors at the tail end of '06.

After posting a 6-3 record and 3.35 ERA in 27 appearances, including 15 starts, at Triple-A Buffalo last season, the right-handed Slocum was a September callup to the Tribe. He made one start in Texas and one at home against Tampa Bay, going 0-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. He also made six appearances out of the Cleveland bullpen during the year, but the starts are what stand out.

"I'm happy with how I finished the season," Slocum said. "I answered some questions I had about how it's going to be to pitch in the big leagues, how it feels to start on the road and at home. But I still have a long way to go."

As a member of a Bisons rotation that will probably include Indians sixth starter Fausto Carmona and top prospect Adam Miller, Slocum will have his work cut out for him if he wants to distinguish himself.

But the Indians were impressed last fall by Slocum's command of his fastball, which he ran up as high as 97 mph in the start against the Rays.

"Against Tampa Bay, in that last inning, I knew it was my last inning of the season, and I got kind of jazzed up there," he said.

That was the last of many innings Slocum logged over the course of 2005-06. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League after the '05 season, participated in the Tribe's winter development program the following January and was in big-league camp for the first time last February.

Needless to say, he welcomed the break last October.

"This was my first official offseason, and I needed it," he said. "I really feel good now."

The lid-lifter: After a slight rain delay, the Indians took the field for their first of two intrasquad games on Tuesday afternoon.

For the stat geeks scoring at home, the not-so-creatively named Team A defeated Team B, 5-4, with left-hander Scott Lewis getting the victory and left-hander Chuck Lofgren taking the loss.

Offensive highlights included Travis Hafner's powerful shot off the right-field foul pole for a solo home run off Ed Mujica in the top of the third inning and Jason Michaels' solo homer to left off Rafael Perez in the bottom of the third. Catcher Wyatt Toregas impressed with a two-run double to left off Lofgren in the fifth.

Defensively, the game was somewhat of a mess, as David Dellucci and Shin-Soo Choo each dropped a ball in left, Ryan Garko dropped one at first, and Luis Rivas and Keith Ginter each booted a ball in the infield.

But Wedge was hardly going to fret about the defensive miscues.

"That's why we have these intrasquad games," Wedge said. "It's for the pitchers, but it's also to get those guys out there and get their feet wet again."

On the bright side defensively, Casey Blake started at third base and made two outstanding picks of hard-hit grounders in the first inning.

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Pronk at first: Hafner has said he'd like to play at first base once a week this season. But with a logjam at first that will likely include Blake, Garko and Victor Martinez, it's hard to imagine that scenario playing out.

Nonetheless, Wedge does plan to get Hafner, who is limited by an arthritic right elbow from playing much in the field, starts at first this season, even outside of Interleague Play.

"Just to keep him fresh over there," Wedge explained. "We've got the flexibility to do that. He's done a good job and worked hard over there, and it's really paid off for him."

Hafner started Tuesday's intrasquad game at first base.

Nixon progressing: Trot Nixon did not participate in the intrasquad game and likely won't be a part of the first week or so of Grapefruit League games, as he is still bouncing back from offseason surgery on a herniated disk in his lower back.

Nixon has, however, participated in all other workouts, including live batting practice.

"He's coming around nice," Wedge said. "He's just trying to get his lower half underneath him and get his baseball legs underneath him."

Fore! Relievers Brian Sikorski and Aaron Fultz, along with some members of the Tigers, participated in a charity golf outing at Eaglebrook Golf Course in nearby Lakeland on Monday.

Sikorski doesn't consider himself the finest duffer in the land, and he was firmly expecting to be spraying the ball all over the course. He was asked if his foursome used any of his shots in the scramble.

"Surprisingly, yeah," he said. "I pulled a few shots out of nowhere that they used. And I was putting well."

Alas, Sikorski's group, which finished seven under par, could not hang with the winning group, which finished 22 under.

Busy hands: The Indians might have been suffering from some sore wrists by the end of the morning Tuesday.

After the team's annual photo day, the players sat in the indoor batting cages signing 1,542 bats, balls and jerseys that the Tribe will donate to various charities this season.

On deck: The Tribe's second intrasquad game will take place on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET. C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Rafael Betancourt, Fultz, Jason Davis, Slocum, Fernando Cabrera, Matt Miller, Tom Mastny, Juan Lara, Tony Sipp and Jason Stanford are all scheduled to pitch in the game.

Jake Westbrook will start Thursday's Grapefruit League opener against the Astros. Cliff Lee will start Friday's game in Clearwater against the Phillies.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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