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Notes: Two-hole not set for Tribe

Notes: Two-hole not set for Tribe

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- In a 2006 season filled with learning experiences, one that really stuck out to Indians manager Eric Wedge was the mistake he claims he made handing the No. 3 spot of the batting order to Jhonny Peralta on Opening Day.

Wedge had good reason to do so, of course, as Peralta had seized that spot in the second half of '05. But Wedge has since learned to appreciate the distinct differences between a young player taking advantage of an opportunity late in a year and that same player being handed a particular spot in April.

What does this have to do with the Indians of '08?

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Well, look to the No. 2 spot of the batting order, which won't necessarily be retained early on by second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who is entering his first full season in the Majors. Cabrera hit .283 (34-for-120) in 30 starts in the two-hole last year, and the Indians went 24-6 in those games.

But Wedge respects the learning curves that come with a player's first full year, so he might ease the pressure on Cabrera.

"I've thought about protecting Asdrubal and having him hit toward the bottom of the lineup," Wedge said Thursday. "But it's not set in stone. I still think he'll end up a two-hole hitter eventually."

In the meantime, Wedge is also considering other options. It's possible that David Dellucci and Jason Michaels, who will share the starts in left field, will also share the No. 2 spot. Right fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who batted second in Thursday's game against the Astros, is another option.

Casey Blake, who had the majority of the Tribe's at-bats in the No. 2 spot last year, won't be hitting there this time around. Blake, who hit 18 homers last year, will be in the lower-third, where he finished '07.

"I like having that thump toward the bottom," Wedge said.

Grady Sizemore is locked into the leadoff spot, Travis Hafner is No. 3 and Victor Martinez is at cleanup. Ryan Garko and Peralta will bat fifth and sixth, but Wedge is wavering on which player will bat in which spot.

No matter the eventual order, Wedge likes his lineup, even if it's a tad unconventional, in terms of the power distribution.

"One through nine," he said, "we have the ability to get on base, hit the ball and drive the ball."

Eight ball: While talking about the lineup, Wedge revealed an interesting little nugget that speaks to his focus on a "one through nine" mentality in lineup construction.

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"Last year," he said, "with the exception of the cleanup spot, our No. 8 hitter had more RBIs opportunities than anybody on the team."

A stat backing up that claim could not immediately be found, but the No. 8 hitters did handle their opportunities pretty well. The Indians had 93 RBIs out of the eighth spot, which was the third-most in the AL behind the Yankees' and the Rangers' 94.

For those curious, the Tribe had 77 RBIs from the leadoff spot, 87 from No. 2, 105 from No. 3, 124 from No. 4, 77 from No. 5, 55 from No. 6, 86 from No. 7 and 80 from No. 9.

Perfect pitching: How good was C.C. Sabathia's outing against the Astros on Thursday? He threw nearly as many pitches in the bullpen (22) as he did in three perfect innings on the mound (28).

Sabathia needed the extra work in the 'pen just to get up to his scheduled 50 pitches. He blew through all nine Astros batters he faced without incident, striking out three.

"I was pounding the strike zone," said Sabathia, who threw his fastball, cutter and changeup but not his curve. "I stayed tall and threw downhill, something I didn't do in my last start. I was aggressive early in the count."

Sabathia, working every fifth day this spring -- as opposed to past years, when he'd be on a four-day rotation in the early going -- said his arm feels great.

He's a hit: Just call him "Dangerous" Danny Sandoval.

Sandoval, a utility infielder and non-roster invitee, broke up the Braves' no-hit bid Wednesday when he hit an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He said that's not the first time he's squashed a no-hit possibility.

"I've done it a couple times in winter ball [in Venezuela]," he said.

Sandoval, who has also homered in the early going, has made a favorable offensive and defensive impression on Wedge in camp, though the Indians aren't expected to have an Opening Day spot available for him.

"He kept us off the front page today," Wedge joked. "I was impressed with him before that hit."

On deck: With only one spot open in the Indians' bullpen, a handful of relievers have reason to bring their best stuff to spring games. Two of those relievers with a decent shot at making the club, Tom Mastny and non-roster invitee Jorge Julio, will give it a shot Friday as the Indians host the Mets at 1:05 p.m. ET in a game that will be shown live on MLB.TV and ESPN.

Left-hander Cliff Lee will make the start for the Tribe opposite left-hander Oliver Perez.

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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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }