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WILSON ALL LAUGHS SINCE RETURN

He was demoted to Triple-A one day and had his status within the Cleveland organization questioned the next. But Bisons infielder Enrique Wilson isn't bitter. Far from it.

Wilson arrived in Buffalo last week and promptly took virtually everything out of teammate Alex Ramirez's locker. When Wilson was last in town, you see, Ramirez had pilfered all of his right shoes. That left Wilson with nothing but left-footed ones and required pay-back.

"Alex didn't have to look far to know who was in his locker," said Bisons manager Jeff Datz. "Enrique is a funny guy. I just laugh all the time around him. He came down here and was jabbing away at guys just like he always has."

You would have thought Wilson would be sulking. After all, he was Cleveland's Opening Day second baseman after hitting .306 with the Herd last year and hit .297 in a month with Buffalo earlier this season. He was just 4 for 25 in his latest Triple-A stint heading into Monday's game at Rochester.

"I'm struggling right now, but not because I'm upset that I'm here," Wilson said. "I just want to play hard every day and go back to Cleveland in September. We have fun here and that's a key to playing together."

Wilson was sent down Aug. 14 when Cleveland signed Cecil Fielder. He took a double hit when manager Mike Hargrove said the Indians feel Wilson doesn't project well as a future second baseman because of his lack of power.

"He's handled it much better than I thought," said Mark Shapiro, the Tribe's director of minor-league operations. "He was disappointed and not understanding of the decision but that's natural at that age (23). He's handled it with maturity, especially for somebody his age."

Wilson has been battling a strained right shoulder, making the left side of the plate the weaker one for the switch-hitter. Hargrove backed off his statement after a firestorm of discussion in the Cleveland media about whether the Tribe had given up on Wilson.

"This does not mean we don't like Enrique Wilson," Hargrove said. "We like him a lot. But in our philosophy, we'd rather have an offensive second baseman."

Since Carlos Baerga was traded in 1996, the Indians have used 16 players at second base. Speculation is flying in Cleveland that the Tribe will pursue free agent Roberto Alomar after the season and is interested in talking to Baerga again if they can't sign Alomar.

Wilson was 8 for 28 in 10 games with Cleveland, collecting three hits off Seattle's Randy Johnson on Opening Day. He grew up playing shortstop and played it quite a bit in Buffalo last year after Damian Jackson was traded.

"Shortstop has been my position and I really play better there," Wilson said. "It's where I grew up playing."

But Omar Vizquel mans short in Cleveland, long-term contract in hand. Wilson's remaining time in Buffalo and his potential September role in Cleveland may amount to an audition for other teams.

Tribe general manager John Hart was in Rochester this weekend to check out the Bisons. Wilson knew he was in the stands, but tried not to feel any extra pressure.

"I know he (Hart) has been here, but when you go to the field, you can't be thinking about that," Wilson said. "You're here to play hard, do a job and help the team win."

"If he's mad, all you have to do is be ready to go at 4 o'clock when we start to stretch," Datz said. "He can be mad from 10:30 or 11 at night until the next day, but he's a professional and knows when to have himself ready to play."

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