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Notes: Eye surgery helping Peralta

Notes: Eye surgery helping Peralta

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Looking in to read catcher Victor Martinez's signs from his shortstop position, all Jhonny Peralta could see was a fuzzy blur.

It was at that point, in the last month of the 2006 season, that Peralta knew it might be time to pop in some contact lenses.

"I could feel it for myself," Peralta said Tuesday. "I didn't see the ball very good and, when I was playing shortstop, I couldn't see the signs at home plate. I knew I had a problem with my eyes."

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Peralta was right. He had been diagnosed with myopia (near-sightedness) earlier in the year, but he opted not to wear the contacts given to him, because he didn't like the way they felt in his eyes.

For the last two weeks of the season, however, he began wearing the lenses, and his performance at that tail end of a difficult year drew praise from manager Eric Wedge.

It's too soon to tell whether Peralta's improvement was a direct result of the vision correction or just the lessons of a long '06 season finally sinking in. But Peralta, taking no chances, had LASIK surgery performed on his eyes in December to have them permanently corrected.

"I tried to use the contacts, but it was too hard for me," Peralta said. "This is much better."

Being able to read a catcher's signs is pivotal for a shortstop's success in the field, because it helps him anticipate what's coming and where he should position himself.

For Peralta, those signs became a hazy mystery as the '06 season wore on, and it certainly showed in his performance. He was often criticized by Wedge for not getting to balls he should have.

Now, as the Indians prepare for the '07 season, Peralta, who reported to Spring Training on Tuesday, is under particular scrutiny. The Tribe's only legitimate roster decision in camp will be the utility infielder's job, and that player is expected to be particularly adept at short, in order to back up Peralta.

Peralta and utility infield candidates Hector Luna, Luis Rivas, Joe Inglett, Keith Ginter and Mike Rouse were all put through some defensive drills on Tuesday morning, and Wedge was encouraged by Peralta's first day.

"I was very pleased with what I saw from him, action-wise and moving around," Wedge said. "He's stronger. Physically, fundamentally and mentally -- he's worked all three areas. It should help him with his overall game."

Despite the inconvenience of dropping the contacts into his eyes, Peralta feels that his improved vision helped him in both phases of the game last September. During the Tribe's season-ending, seven-game homestand, Peralta coupled a stronger performance in the field with a .348 average and four RBIs at the plate.

"I could see everything better," he said. "The last week, I feel I hit the ball good and everything. We'll see if this [surgery] can help a little bit, too."

Slow Trot, for now: Former Red Sox hitting coach Dwight Evans once gave Trot Nixon a great line about an important trait that ballplayers must possess.

"I want patience," said Evans, "and I want it right now."

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Nixon knows all too well how patient one must be when going through the rehab process. He spent significant time on the disabled list in each of his last three seasons with Boston.

Now, coming off offseason surgery to correct a herniated disc in his back, Nixon is slowed again. He said that he has no problem swinging the bat and throwing, but the disc had been pinching a nerve, affecting his movement.

"It's all about regenerating that nerve and getting those signals to my calf and ankle and foot and jump-starting it," Nixon said.

Nixon hopes to be ready to go full throttle by the end of the first week of March.

"But it might take all the way through Spring Training," he said, "and I knew that coming in."

Nixon was limited to 114 games last season due to a monthlong stay on the disabled list with a right biceps strain and a staph infection in his right elbow. The Indians, who signed Nixon last month, plan to give him the starting job in right field and the No. 2 spot of the batting order against right-handed pitching this season.

"I've been through this before," Nixon said. "If I want to play, I have to work my tail off. I just want to play baseball and get back to being healthy."

Winter Haven wins: Nixon didn't even consider where the Indians conducted Spring Training when he signed with them. And when he realized that they train in Winter Haven, he had to laugh.

The first of Nixon's 13 Spring Trainings with the Red Sox was in 1994 -- the first year Boston trained in Fort Myers after spending 26 years in Winter Haven.

"Winter Haven got me," Nixon said with a smile. "I thought I had escaped, but it finally sucked me in."

They were golden: Five former Indians are on the ballot for the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team.

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Gold Glove Award, Rawlings has unveiled a ballot of the 50 greatest defensive players of all time, from which fans will choose one player from each position to form the all-time team.

The former Indians on the ballot are first baseman Vic Power, second baseman Roberto Alomar, third baseman Buddy Bell, shortstop Omar Vizquel and outfielder Dave Winfield.

Voting for the Gold Glove team began Tuesday at www.rawlingsgoldglove.com.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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