GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians purchased Michael Brantley's ticket to Triple-A Columbus the day they signed Russell Branyan to a one-year, $2 million contract last month. The plan was to have Matt LaPorta in left field, Branyan at first and Brantley doing his time with the Clippers.

Plans began to change as the condition of Branyan's back held him further and further back in Spring Training camp, to the point where the Indians decided Branyan would open the season on the 15-day disabled list.

Brantley twisted in the wind for a while, but the Indians finally let him know Wednesday that he'll open the season as their starting left fielder.

"You never know what can happen," Brantley said. "I could have hit .800 [this spring] and been sent down. It's going to be a great thrill to be in the big leagues this year."

How long will Brantley, who had a stellar September in the big leagues last year but an average season at the Triple-A level beforehand, remain in the Majors? That will be determined by Branyan's status and Brantley's performance.

It's well-documented that the Indians' first preference was to avoid having this season count toward Brantley's arbitration-eligibility, but his impressive spring made it clear he has no business being sent down just yet.

"He's certainly earned an opportunity to be here," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Ideally, you'd get a little more Minor League time with a guy like that, but he's earned the opportunity. We told him he'll be making the decisions for us, going forward."

Brantley, acquired in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade, has hit .333 with an .866 OPS in 17 games this spring. Last September, he hit .313 in the big leagues after batting .267 in Columbus. He was hampered all season by right ankle problems, but he came to camp feeling strong.

"I worked very hard for this opportunity," he said.

Brantley, the son of former Major League outfielder and hitting coach Mickey Brantley, has impressed the Indians with his poise as much as his performance.

"Michael's done everything we could have asked," Shapiro said. "He obviously handles himself with great poise and maturity, well beyond his chronological years. He has a solid approach to hit, a good outfielder with a good arm. He's a complete player, a professional and a good teammate."

Lewis, Marte also make cut

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Andy Marte and Jensen Lewis could finally exhale Wednesday morning. Though they arrived to Indians camp with a lot to prove and major roster hurdles placed in front of them, they both made it on the club's Opening Day roster.

The injuries that will force first baseman Russell Branyan and closer Kerry Wood to open the season on the 15-day disabled list directly benefited both Marte and Lewis.

Marte is now needed as first-base insurance for Matt LaPorta, who had surgery on his left hip and left big toe last October and will probably only be available to play about five days a week early in the season. Marte, who is out of Minor League options, has hit .250 with two homers and nine RBIs in 18 games this spring. "He brings that above-average defense at first and third," manager Manny Acta said earlier this week. "He's had some good games offensively, too. We've seen some progress with him. Now the issue will be whether he can make the adjustment ... to sit on the bench for a few games and maintain his hitting approach and give us quality at-bats."

Lewis is now needed to round out a bullpen in which the only clearly defined role is the one belonging to Chris Perez, who will fill in for the injured Wood in the ninth inning.

After an '09 season in which he served up 13 homers in 66 1/3 innings and was twice demoted to Triple-A Columbus, Lewis was on the outside looking in when camp opened. But he threw the ball well this spring and is hoping to reclaim the effectiveness that helped him save 13 games at the end of the '08 season.

"You can never say you're going to make the team every year, whether it's your first year or your 10th," Lewis said. "I knew I put the work in to get here."

Huff likely part of Tribe rotation

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Put it in pencil, because manager Manny Acta wouldn't confirm it in ink, but left-hander David Huff likely locked himself into the Indians' Opening Day rotation Wednesday.

With the rest of the roster decisions announced earlier in the day, all the Indians had left to decide was the final rotation spot. It's down to Huff and the right-handed Carlos Carrasco. Both have had their ups and downs in camp, with Huff, a team-leading 11-game winner as a rookie in 2009, the more experienced of the two.

Carrasco's six walks Sunday against the Angels hurt his standing, so the job seemed Huff's to lose. He might have claimed it by going seven innings against the White Sox, allowing just a run (an Alex Rios solo shot) on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

"I tried to put myself in a good spot and do my job," Huff said. "Ultimately, it comes down to their decision."

That decision won't be announced until Friday. Acta and the bulk of the Indians' coaching staff will be traveling with a roster loaded with regulars to Los Angeles on Thursday for a night exhibition game at Dodger Stadium.

Huff can breathe easy after this outing, though. He wasn't perfect, by any means, and he nibbled a bit even after the Indians took an 8-1 lead in the second. But he induced three double plays and limited the damage from a Sox lineup heavy on regulars.

"He pitched well," Acta said. "He certainly didn't hurt himself with this outing. Whether the big lead helped him or not, he was able to throw strikes and use both sides of the plate."

If Huff does claim the rotation job, as expected, he could be slotted into the No. 4 spot, in an effort to break up the right-handers earlier in the rotation. Mitch Talbot could be the No. 5 guy.

Huff is 2-1 this spring. With this outing, he lowered his ERA from 5.40 to 4.18.

"There's always room to do more," he said. "I had a couple bad outings, but what can you do? Last spring, I don't think I got past five innings. This year, getting to seven innings and feeling great, I couldn't ask for more."