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Indians set for opener in new-look NWL

The Spokane Indians will begin their 31st consecutive season in the Northwest League on Friday with a spot in a new division. The NWL is now divided North-South instead of East-West, so the Indians' new division rivals are Everett, which opens the season at Spokane, and Vancouver. Tri-City is still in Spokane's division. Read story

Despite having to make a few long road trips, Hulett said most NWL teams are fortunate.

“What I do know is this league’s travel is still a lot better than other leagues’,” he said. “We could complain, but we don’t really have the right to.”

Spokane's current roster will be a work in progress, as it is each NWL season.

“I don’t know who we have that’s still out there that needs to be signed, who’s going to get hurt,” Hulett said. “There’s all kinds of things that could change our ballclub that have nothing to do with how guys are playing or what a guy’s doing. It might be a numbers things somewhere along the line.”

About one-third of the players on the Indians' roster also played in Spokane last season. Hulett said having so many players back is not unheard of, but 10 returners is “not the norm.”

Despite that, Hulett proclaimed the roster “a good mix” and seemed especially pleased at catcher, with fifth-round selection Joe Jackson of The Citadel and 16th-rounder Marcus Green of New Mexico JC. Both can swing the bat, which means Hulett may want both in the regular lineup.

“We may try to move 'Greeny' around a little bit,” Hulett said. “He’s a very athletic-looking kid, so he may mix in at another spot just to get his bat in the lineup.”

Last year's Indians got off to a poor start and finished the first half 12-26. Hulett said he wants this year's players to fit in quickly and get off to a good start.

One of the Indians' returners, infielder Cam Schiller, said the experience from 2012 will make 2013 all that much easier.

“Coming in last year, there was the fear of the unknown a little bit,” Schiller said. “The schedule and everything takes a little chunk of your mind. When you can come out here and you know the schedule, you know the guys, you know the coaches, you’re familiar with the field, you can focus on just playing the game.”

Schiller also called Spokane an “unbelievable” place to play, especially with the way the Indians and parent-club Texas Rangers take care of their players.

Friday's projected season-opening starter, right-hander Alex Gonzalez, said he's never been in the Northwest and has baseball to thank for his U.S. travels.

“I know we’re going to Vancouver next week and that will be the first time I’ve been to Canada,” said Gonzalez, a first-round selection in last week's draft. “Baseball’s taken me all over the country and I want to continue doing it.”

The Indians practiced Thursday under the lights at Avista Stadium, to get accustomed to game-time lighting.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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