Archive for Saturday, July 20, 2002

LHS product Stevens ‘playing for a job’

July 20, 2002


— With the Cleveland Indians in the middle of a youth movement, Lawrence High graduate Lee Stevens isn't sure about his future.

Stevens, who went 0-for-4 with a run scored and committed two errors for the Indians in Friday night's 8-5 loss in the opener of a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals, was traded to Cleveland by the Montreal Expos along with three minor leaguers in a deal for pitcher Bartolo Colon on June 27.

"I thought something would happen," said Stevens, the 22nd overall pick in the 1986 draft. "I figured it was just a matter of time. I actually thought I was going to get traded in spring training. It's always a surprise when it happens in the middle of the season. It's another adjustment you have to go through in the middle, and that's what makes it tough."

After the trade, Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro said that the deal signaled the beginning of a rebuilding process for the Indians. That, and his .183 average, could mean the 35-year-old Stevens might not have much time left in Cleveland or his career.

"If there's ever been a time where I've taken it day-by-day, it's right now," Stevens said. "When you're struggling like this you have to take it day-by-day so I can't think about if they want me for the future or for next year.

"I'm trying to get something started and something going for me so I will have a job next year. I'm playing for a job next year at this point and it's important for me to start playing well right now to get myself a job next year."

The trade hasn't helped his average. The veteran first baseman is hitting just .143 with no home runs and two RBIs since joining Cleveland.

"It's just been a nightmare for me at the plate," Stevens said. "There have been times where I think I'm getting it going and then I take two steps back. It's been a tough one for me and I'm trying to be positive and professional about it. I still feel like there are a lot of games left in me to break out of it and salvage this year."

For now, Stevens is enjoying his time with the Indians. He had previously spent time in the American League, playing with the Angels from 1990 to 1992 and the Texas Rangers from 1996 to 1999.

"Everybody's been great," Stevens said. "It's a first-class organization. I've played against a lot of these guys and a lot of them are new. I've got a lot of new teammates and now I've gotten to play with some of the guys I played against when I was with Texas."

As much as Stevens was surprised by the trade, he didn't mind getting out of Montreal, which averages less than 10,000 fans a game worst in the majors at Olympic Stadium. The Expos have been one of the leading candidates for contraction.

"You'd go out there as a major league player trying to get ready for a major league game," Stevens said, "and you walk out on the field and there are 4,000 or 5,000 people. It's pretty depressing, and it grows on you after awhile. I was there for 2 1/2 years and had really good teammates and it was a good organization.

"But it wasn't fun as far as the fan support goes."

Stevens said fan support was what the Royals needed to help stay away from the problems the Expos faced as a small-market team.

"This is a first-class organization also," he said of the Royals, "and I'm sure the players would like to see more fans. The good thing they have here is a good stadium to work in. In Montreal, it is the worst stadium in the major leagues and there are no fans. Here, there's a better atmosphere and they're going through a transition also and trying to put together a good team.

"They have a good young team that's playing well right now and the fans should start coming out to see them play."

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