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Wright Gets Opening Day Nod

Drum roll, please.

And the Indians' opening day starter is ...

"Jaret Wright," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove finally revealed Monday, ending weeks of speculation.

Hargrove waited until the last week of training camp to announce he had picked Wright for the Indians' 1999 opener next Tuesday night in Anaheim.

"It's a nice surprise," said Wright, a southern Californian who figures he'll need 20-25 tickets for family and friends that night. "I wasn't trying to think about it too much. Opening day in your hometown has to be pretty exciting. Now I can tell my friends which game to go to."

Hargrove said he narrowed his choice in recent days for the opener to either Wright or Dave Burba, and finally selected Wright (0-1 with a 3.70 ERA in six spring starts) after setting up his rotation for the first couple months of the season.

He said he didn't want to pitch Wright and Bartolo Colon on consecutive nights, so Hargrove will have Burba follow Wright with Colon, Charles Nagy and Dwight Gooden completing the rotation.

"I didn't want the two kids pitching back to back and I wanted them in the top three spots in the rotation," Hargrove said.

For Burba, it's the second straight year he has missed out on an opening day assignment. On the night before he was to pitch the Reds' opener last year, Cincinnati traded the right-hander to Cleveland.

"It's not a big deal," Burba said after dropping to 3-2 this spring on Monday with a 4-2 loss to Kansas City. "It was a big deal last year because I had been told I would start the opener. It wasn't like if I didn't get it this year I'd hang my head. I'm happy for Jaret. It's special and he should be proud of it."

Jaret Wright gets the nod as the Indians' opening day starter.>
Jaret Wright gets the nod as the Indians' opening day starter. (AP)

The way it now stands, barring a rainout, Burba will get a consolation prize - the Indians' home opener against Kansas City on April 12.

"I haven't thought about it really," Burba said. "I'll be a little nervous, I'll tell you that."

Nerves may be one of Wright's biggest problems when he pitches ihis hometown against the Angels. The 23-year-old is 1-2 with a 10.70 ERA vs. Anaheim, and last year was 0-2 with a 15.19 ERA. In an Aug. 3 start there, Wright was roughed up for seven runs in two innings.

Hargrove says it's too early in Wright's career to look so closely at those kinds of stats.

"He doesn't have good numbers in Anaheim," Hargrove said. "But he has only had a year and a half of numbers. That's skewed a little bit."

Wright will now add opening day starter to an impressive resume in a brief career that already includes three playoff wins, a World Series victory and a starting assignment in Game 7 of the Series.

And it may be a Wright family first as well. Wright said he didn't know if his father, Clyde, a 10-year major league veteran had ever pitched an opener.

"I'll have to ask him," he said. "If he remembers."

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