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Cecil Fielder May Join Indians

August 13, 1998

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Cecil Fielder cleared waivers Thursday and was talking with the Cleveland Indians about joining them to ease the loss of injured first baseman Jim Thome.

Indians general manager John Hart said he was talking with Fielder’s agents, Jim Bronner and Bob Gilhooly, but a contract was not worked out yet.

``I think Cecil Fielder would be an interesting guy for this ballclub,″ Hart said before Cleveland’s game against Baltimore. ``He’s a big guy. He’s got power. He’s familiar with our league. If you look at left-handed pitching, I think there could be some opportunities there for Cecil.″

Fielder, 34, hit .241 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs in 103 games for Anaheim before the Angels designated him for assignment on Aug. 5. However, 29 of Fielder’s RBIs came in June, when the Angels were 22-6, and his season average with two outs and runners in scoring position was .169.

The 6-foot-3, 261-pound first baseman, known as ``Big Daddy,″ hit 51 homers for Detroit in 1990. He was a key September addition to the New York Yankees in 1996, helping them get to and win the World Series.

``He’s been around,″ Hart said. ``He knows what it’s like to be around late in a season.″

Bronner and Gilhooly did not immediately return telephone messages.

Manager Mike Hargrove said he liked the idea of adding Fielder as the Indians try to clinch their fourth straight AL Central title and prepare for the postseason.

``He would fit here,″ Hargrove said. ``That’s something that would help us.″

The Indians also were thought to be interested in Gary Gaetti, designated for assignment by St. Louis. But Hart dismissed it, asking, ``Where would he fit?″

Rookie Richie Sexson has filled in capably at first base since Thome had a bone in his right hand broken by a pitch from Wilson Alvarez on August 7. But Fielder would bring a veteran presence and a track record of major league power.

Thome’s return, projected for mid-September, would present the problem of where to play Fielder. With left-handed DH David Justice hitting .223 against lefties, that answer appears self-evident: Platoon them.

``You would have to ask Grover that specifically,″ Hart said. ``Let’s just leave it as, if we get Fielder, I’d just be bringing in a talent. I’d just be bringing another guy to town.″

Justice batted .322 against lefties last season and entered the year with a .294 career average against them. But offseason surgery on his left knee appears to have taken the bite out of his swing.

Also, Justice has complained that the Indians don’t have a left-hander to throw batting practice. Hargrove, a former left-handed batter who throws lefty, pitched to Justice a few times on the club’s last road trip.

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