CLEVELAND (AP) -- An avid outdoorsman and hunter, Casey Blake
prides himself on his duck-calling ability.
On Friday, he came through with the pond full.
Blake connected on a grand slam and Travis Hafner homered twice
as the Cleveland Indians, determined to put their 2005 collapse
behind them, opened at home with an 11-6 win over the Minnesota
Twins on Friday.
Back at sold-out Jacobs Field for the first time since their
final-week fade last October, the Indians began to erase some of
the bitter memories of a 1-6 record down the stretch that cost them
a playoff spot despite 93 wins.
"Last year was last year," said Blake, whose personal
struggles in '05 epitomized the Indians' failures. "We're going to
be a better team for that experience."
Hafner went 4-for-4 and scored a career-high four runs, Victor
Martinez added two RBI and Grady Sizemore had three hits and made
a tough catch for Cleveland, which has won three straight since
dropping the season opener against the Chicago White Sox.
Blake connected off Kyle Lohse (0-1) with two outs in the fifth
when the Indians scored five runs to open a 9-3 lead. Last season,
Blake was 2-for-14 with the bases loaded, including 0-for-7 with
the bags full and two outs.
Overall, he batted .085 with two outs and runners in scoring
position and finished with a .241 average -- 30 points below his '04
But those numbers meant little in the fifth, when the former
third baseman -- he switched to right field last season -- pulled
Lohse's first pitch over the wall in left for his second career
slam. It was the first bases-loaded homer in a Cleveland home
opener since Hafner hit one in 2004 -- also off Lohse.
Blake's problems last year weighed heavily on the 32-year-old in
the offseason. He found solace during the winter while golfing and
duck hunting, which he took up five years ago to help him relax.
Sitting in the duck blind isn't much different from being in the
"When the ducks are coming in or on you, you've got to be
comfortable and cool," he said. "You'd like to take some of that
confidence to the plate."
Blake admitted losing his focus last season, and said he felt
the pressure when he'd come up with runners on base.
"Mentally, I was spread pretty thin in all areas of life," he
said. "I could stand here and make hundreds of excuses. But the
bottom line is that I really didn't play well at all."
"How many hits did they have?" manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"They can kill the ball. We have to figure a way to slow them
Byrd's career came full circle as the right-hander, who was
drafted by Cleveland in 1991 and traded three years later, made his
first start at the Jake in an Indians uniform. Byrd (1-0) allowed
five runs and six hits in six innings, a typical outing for the
35-year-old being counted on to help replace Kevin Millwood.
Part of the reason that Byrd, who pitched last season for the
Los Angeles Angels, returned to Cleveland was that he wanted to
play for a contender.
"This is a good team that went through a lot last year," he
said. "We wanted to get off to a good start, and so far, that's
what we've done."
The Indians, who failed to deliver in crucial situations during
their early fall fadeaway last October, got four hits -- two with
two outs -- in the first and took a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by
Jhonny Peralta and Ben Broussard.
Cleveland went up 4-1 in the third on a two-run double by
Martinez, whose towering shot to left-center fooled fans and the
fireworks' operator, who sent sparklers normally reserved for home
runs high above the fog-shrouded Jake.
In the second, Sizemore raced back and made a leaping catch
against the wall in center to rob Morneau of extra bases. The play
drew a wide smile from Byrd, who has pitched for the New York Mets,
Atlanta, Philadelphia, Kansas City, the Braves again, and the
Angels between stops with Cleveland.
"I was amazed," Byrd said. "I didn't think he was ever going
to get it."
Indians 2B Ronnie Belliard left in the eighth with a tight
calf muscle. ... Twins RF Lew Ford was removed in the sixth with a
tight hamstring. ... With a 2 p.m. waiver deadline looming, the
Indians traded INF Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati. Phillips began
2003 as Cleveland's starter at second base, but never reached the
stardom forecast when the club acquired him from Montreal in 2002.
... The Twins won the season series between the AL Central rivals
10-9 last season. ... While in Chicago, the Indians saw the White
Sox get their World Series rings during what became a three-day
celebration of the club's first world championship since 1918. "We
saw plenty," 3B Aaron Boone said. "I thought they did it up right
and did it well. It all was pretty neat."