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Reporting For Duty

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Justin Sprenger and John Straka sat side-by-side on small folding chairs in front of their lockers inside the cramped home team's clubhouse at Avista Stadium late Monday afternoon.

The right-handed pitchers arrived earlier than the other Spokane Indians and they had the quiet clubhouse to themselves -- just them, a TV showing the Red Sox-Rays game and piles of baseball pants on a table in the middle of the room.

Then the madness descended onto the small room beneath the bleachers along the first-base line. Most of the Indians flew into town this afternoon and the team drove them to the stadium in vans. Once at the stadium, the players were able to pick out uniform and hat sizes and settle into their lockers. First-year Indians were able to scope out the field.

The Rangers announced on Monday evening that first-round pick Alex Gonzalez had been assigned to the Indians.

Most of the players were told of their Minor League assignment yesterday morning. For those that were selected last weekend in the first-year player draft, it's been quite the whirlwind.

"I was like, ‘All right, I've got family over, I've got to get this done by tonight and this done tomorrow,' so it was all kind of woven," said Straka, who was a 32nd-round pick out of North Dakota State. "It wasn't too bad. I'm glad I didn't have to sit around for a whole week at home. More so, just being anxious and getting excited to go out there."

The season starts with a 6:30 p.m. game Friday against Everett at Avista Stadium. For some of the Indians, though, the professional baseball season began months ago. Those drafted in past years and reporting to Spokane this season have been working in Extended Spring Training in Arizona.

It's been a tough couple months for pitcher Josh McElwee, who will look to right the ship in Spokane. McElwee played with the Indians last year and started this season with Single-A Hickory. But he wasn't able to perform well, posting a 10.13 ERA in 11 games.

So the Rangers sent him back to Arizona and now he makes a return trip to Spokane.

"I remember so many fans and fans coming to the games," McElwee said. "It's a great atmosphere to play baseball in. Especially, for most first-year guys coming right out of college or right out of the draft, it's a good atmosphere and it's a great place to play."

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