ATLANTA -- Grady Sizemore was not a happy camper when the Indians optioned him to Triple-A Buffalo on March 28. But he accepted the move, knowing that, at 22, it wouldn't be long before he'd be back.
Sizemore had no idea it would take only three days for him to make the return trip, however, as he was recalled on March 31, when Juan Gonzalez was put on the 15-day DL.
While it's not the scenario he would have drawn up for his return to the Majors, he's ready to seize the opportunity to shine as part of the Indians' 25-man season-opening roster, regardless of how long his stay might be.
"I'm just happy to be here and I want to help the team any way I can," said Sizemore, who was 0-for-2 in Saturday's exhibition finale against Atlanta, but still hit .276 for the spring.
Acquired by Cleveland as part of the Bartolo Colon trade on June 27, 2002, Sizemore got a taste of the Majors last season, hitting .246 in 43 games with four homers and 24 RBIs. He struggled with Major League pitching (striking out 34 times) but showed a willingness to do whatever it took to get on base (he was hit by pitches five times0.
"He works hard," said manager Eric Wedge. "He's learning to make adjustments, and is going to be a good hitter up here."
"Grady is talented," added Casey Blake, whose move from third base to the outfield actually contributed to the youngster getting squeezed. "Not only is he talented, but he's young and I think he proved last year that he belongs up here. He just needs some big league experience."
Sizemore insists his attitude will not change, regardless of where he's playing.
"I'm still playing the same game," he said. "I'm still the same person. No matter where I am, I'm going to keep playing the same way. I'm just going to go out there and play my game, do what got me here."
An official win: The Indians won their spring finale against the Atlanta Braves, 9-5, though in an extended 11-inning game, the Braves added six.
Cliff Lee started and went the first five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) and nine hits, striking out three and walking three.
"I felt pretty good," said Lee, who finished with a 7.83 ERA (20 ER in 23.0 IP) in six starts. "I left a couple of balls over the plate and they were hit hard. There's no more time for that. I've got to be ready for the real deal."
The bullpen looked solid, as Matt Miller, Bob Wickman, Arthur Rhodes, Bob Howry and Rafael Betancourt each threw a scoreless frame. Scott Sauerbeck and David Riske were not as impressive.
Sauerbeck, who had previously allowed only two runs in seven appearances, struggled with his control, allowing all five batters he faced to reach, surrendering a hit, walking two and hitting two more. He was charged with five earned runs, and saw his Spring ERA go from 2.70 to 9.45.
Riske, who has had trouble with the long ball, gave up his fourth home run of the spring, a three-run shot to Adam LaRoche after relieving Sauerbeck in Atlanta's six-run 10th.
The hot-hitting Tribe can swagger into Chicago after knocking around Braves ace Tim Hudson (seven earned runs and eight hits in four innings). Coco Crisp (who also had three RBIs), Victor Martinez, Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard each contributed two hits, and Aaron Boone belted his third homer of the spring, off Hudson in Cleveland's three-run fourth.
Everybody wins: The winner of Saturday's game depends on who you ask. While the Atlanta camp will undoubtedly point to its side's 11-9, 11-inning victory, Cleveland supporters can counter that after nine, their team led 9-5. For the record, the Elias Sports Bureau supports the Tribe, only counting stats over the first nine innings.
'Tis the season: The Indians had a little bit of everything weather-wise over their two days in Atlanta. Friday saw torrential rains cancel the game, and Saturday, the Indians' batting practice was interrupted by snow flurries.
Happy homecoming: Infielder Brandon Phillips had his own cheering section at Saturday's game. Phillips, who played high school ball at Redan High School and committed to play both football and baseball at the University of Georgia, lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, during the offseason.
The Final cutdown: Unfortunately for Phillips, he was optioned to Buffalo following Saturday's game. The move cut the Tribe's roster down to the required 25.
The 23-year-old infielder made nine starts at short this spring, and in 16 games hit a disappointing .125 (5-for-40) with a double and four RBIs.
Earlier in the week, Cleveland sent right-hander Steve Watkins to minor league camp for reassignment. Watkins was 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in seven appearances.
Here's the question: Right-hander Jake Westbrook, who will start on Opening Day, finished third in the American League last season in ERA (3.38). Who was the last Indians pitcher to finish in the top three in ERA? (See answer below.)
Quotable: "It would've been an easy decision for me if nobody would've wanted me. I would've walked off then and not tried playing again. But there were a lot of teams interested in me, and I still felt I had something." -- reliever Bob Wickman, on his thoughts about coming back in 2005.
Did you know?: Former Indians outfielder Matt Lawton had an older brother who played in the Majors. Marcus Lawton spent 10 games with the Yankees in 1989.
Tribe tidbits: Indians fans can buy tickets for all games at The Jake through the Internet at www.clevelandindians.com, at the Jacobs Field box office, at the seven Cleveland Indians Team Shops in Northeast Ohio and through the Ticketmaster.com phone center (1-866-48-TRIBE).
First Pitch Luncheon: The Indians will hold their fourth-annual First Pitch Luncheon on April 13 in the Convocation Center on the Cleveland State University campus. The event will be held in conjunction with Continental Airlines, one of the team's corporate partners.
The First Pitch Luncheon will give Indians fans the only opportunity all season to see and meet the Indians players. It will also feature an autograph session with players, and a chance to meet the newest members of the team. Tickets can be obtained by calling 216-420-HITS or by logging on to Indians.com for more information.
And here's the answer: In 1996, right-hander Charlie Nagy finished the season with a 3.41 ERA, which left him among the top three in the league.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.