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Cleveland bullpen ends up sheepish

4/6/2004

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins' reconfigured bullpen had
a stellar season opener.

Can't say the same about Cleveland.

Shannon Stewart hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 11th
inning, giving the Twins a 7-4 comeback victory over the Indians on
Monday night.

The Twins lost their top two relievers -- Eddie Guardado and
LaTroy Hawkins -- to free agency in the offseason. How the revamped
bullpen will hold up was a question mark coming into the season.

"We all did our job and gave us a chance to win," said J.C. Romero, one of five Minnesota relievers who pitched a scoreless inning. "That's what we're here for."

Travis Hafner hit two of Cleveland's three home runs, and
Indians starter C.C. Sabathia pitched seven shutout innings with
nothing to show for it.

"We had two guys we're counting on to take care of innings late
in the game who didn't get the job done," said manager Eric Wedge,
who watched his team get 17 hits but blow a 4-0 eighth-inning lead
against the two-time defending AL Central champions.

There were actually three culprits for Cleveland -- Jose Jimenez
and Scott Stewart in the eighth and Chad Durbin (0-1) in the 11th.

Matthew LeCroy walked against Durbin with one out, and rookie
Joe Mauer singled. With two outs, Shannon Stewart hit a 1-1 pitch
to left to end it.

"It's good to help the team out," he said. "Very exciting."

Juan Rincon (1-0) worked a scoreless 11th after Joe Nathan
nearly gave up a run in the 10th. Omar Vizquel doubled into the
right-field corner, but Matt Lawton was out at home on a perfect
relay throw by second baseman Michael Cuddyer.

Sabathia, a 13-game winner last year for an Indians team that
went 68-94, gave up two hits in the first inning -- and none after
that. He walked three, struck out nine and watched the bullpen
fritter away a victory.

"Nasty," Minnesota's Doug Mientkiewicz said of Sabathia.
"Best I've ever seen him."

Jimenez started the eighth, got one out and left Scott Stewart with runners on second and third. Cuddyer's pinch-hit single to
center drove them in, cutting the lead to 4-2.

After Corey Koskie's double scored Cuddyer, Rafael Betancourt entered and gave up a tying RBI single to Torii Hunter before striking out Jacque Jones and LeCroy.

"Jose just didn't get the job done tonight," Cleveland's Casey Blake said. "It was too bad for C.C. because he pitched his heart out. With our bullpen, that's a safe lead, and next time they'll get it done."

Mauer, who started the eighth-inning rally with a walk, singled leading off the ninth for his first major league hit. The 20-year-old catcher, who grew up in St. Paul just a few miles from the Metrodome, was on base four out of five times. Coco Crisp stole second base and beat a high throw from Mauer after a pitchout in the eighth inning.

Twins starter Brad Radke, beginning his 10th major league season
and pitching on Opening Day for the eighth time, wasn't sharp. He
allowed four runs, two earned, 11 hits and three homers in six
innings.

Ben Broussard scored on a wild pitch with two outs in the
second. Mauer retrieved it and could've nailed the runner, but the
throw to Radke at the plate was wild.

Hafner was batting at the time. Four pitches later, he homered
to make it 2-0.

Shannon Stewart, the only Twins batter to reach base more than
once in the first seven innings, had a chance to catch Jody Gerut's
third-inning homer but felt it glance off his glove and into the
left-field seats.

Radke gave up Hafner's second homer in the sixth -- an upper-deck
shot that gave Cleveland a 4-0 lead.

Hafner, who had 14 home runs in 291 at-bats last year, hit for
the cycle here Aug. 14 and has a .393 career average
(11-for-28) at Minnesota.

Sabathia, meanwhile, was cruising. He was a little wild, as has
been his custom, but the 6-foot-7, 290-pound lefty had the Twins
baffled all night. He threw 104 pitches.

"I knew our guys wouldn't quit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "As soon as they took him out of the game, you could feel
the breath of fresh air."

Game notes
Broussard hurt his leg on the Metrodome's new synthetic
grass surface running in from first base toward Cristian Guzman's
bunt in the ninth. He was replaced by Lou Merloni and will be out
three to five days, Wedge said. ... Mauer is the youngest catcher
to start on Opening Day since 1992, when Ivan Rodriguez debuted for
Texas at age 20 -- 224 days younger than Mauer. ... The Indians went
7-20 in April last year en route to their worst finish since 1991.
Their first 22 games this year are against division foes.