CLEVELAND -- While taking a water break in the Indians' dugout during a hot Wednesday afternoon workout, Orlando Cabrera smirked. The veteran infielder had just been asked how third base had been treating him.
"Not well," Cabrera said with a smile. "Hey, I'm too old to be a liar."
The 36-year-old Cabrera may have been joking about his pregame infield session at the hot corner, but the Indians know he is more than capable of handling the position. For Wednesday's game against Colorado, Cabrera was in the lineup as the Tribe's third baseman for the second time in three games.
Those were also the only starts at third base in Cabrera's 15-year Major League career.
This season, Cabrera has served primarily as Cleveland's starting second baseman. With rookie second baseman Cord Phelps now on the roster, and first baseman Matt LaPorta on the disabled list, Cabrera has been asked to spend some time at third base as well.
Indians manager Manny Acta has full confidence in Cabrera at the challenging position.
"He felt comfortable over there," said Acta referring to Cabrera's previous start at third base on Monday. "He keeps getting his work over there. ... I don't see any issues with him. A ground ball is a ground ball to him and he's got good hands.
"It gives us some flexibility and more opportunities for him to be in there and for Phelps to get some more at-bats."
Marson improving at plate with regular play
CLEVELAND -- Baseball is a game of opportunity. For Indians catcher Lou Marson, his opportunity to show something to the ballclub came after a freak injury to first baseman Matt LaPorta happened during a unique part in the season's schedule.
Cleveland lost LaPorta to a right ankle injury on Friday, forcing the Tribe to rely more on regular catcher Carlos Santana as a first baseman. Now, with no designated hitter available during the club's upcoming nine-game swing through National League ballparks, Santana is set to continue to see a bulk of his playing time in the field.
Marson will be left to handle the majority of the action behind the plate.
"This is a good opportunity for us to play Lou more often," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Wednesday. "Lou's a guy who we all think has a chance to be an everyday catcher at the big league level. We don't see Lou as just a backup guy."
- 131 wins
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Entering Wednesday's home game against the Rockies, Marson was hitting just .235 with no home runs and seven RBIs over 26 games for Cleveland this season. A funny thing has happened recently, though. As Marson's playing time has increased, so has his offensive production.
Marson had recorded at least one hit in seven of his last eight games, entering Wednesday. During that span, the catcher had hit at a .333 (9-for-27) clip for the Tribe. In the process, his season average has climbed steadily since June 8, when it stood at only .185 on the year.
"I think that's the case for just about everybody," Acta said. "It does help to be out there more often."
The Indians feel that Marson's offense is the main area in need of improvement.
Defensively, Marson has proved sound in calling games and throwing out runners. Entering Wednesday, he ranked first in the Majors with a caught-stealing rate of 52 percent (13 runners thrown out in 27 chances). His 33.8 caught-stealing percentage led all AL catchers in 2010.
"He's got good hands," Acta said. "He's very good calling a ballgame and he's got a very quick release. He proved that last year. He's caught his whole life. He's still developing as a hitter -- we knew that -- but he's got a chance to be a good one."
The Indians view LaPorta as their everyday first baseman, when healthy. Acta was asked, however, if offensive improvement from Marson might convince the team to play him more often behind the plate, keeping Santana at first on a more regular basis.
"It's just like every one of the guys in the Minor Leagues," Acta said. "Those guys make the decisions for us. We can sit and talk about all that stuff here, but at the end of the day, we all know that Lou is going to have to develop as a hitter to be an everyday catcher in the American League."
Acta: Rookie Phelps is handling himself well
CLEVELAND -- Rookie Cord Phelps has not been with the Indians long enough for manager Manny Acta to evaluate the type of player he could become in the big leagues. Acta wants more time to start discussing Phelps' part in Cleveland's future.
"It would be unfair to him," Acta said, "for me to just give you a flat-out evaluation of him yet. He's shown some good bat-to-ball ability and is able to handle a fastball. ... Defensively, I haven't seen him long enough to make an assessment. But he has handled himself well."
Entering Wednesday, Phelps was hitting .207 with one home run, one double, one triple and five RBIs through nine games for the Indians. He was promoted from Triple-A Columbus on June 8 to take over as the Tribe's primary second baseman against right-handed pitching.
The 24-year-old Phelps got off to a slow start, hitting just .063 (1-for-16) over his first six games with the Indians. Since then, though, the switch-hitting infielder has hit .357 (5-for-14) in his past three games. On Sunday, Phelps belted a three-run, walk-off homer in the 11th inning of a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.
In the field, Phelps has made two errors in 32 chances.
"He's in a good groove right now," Acta said. "He's been squaring the ball up very good. Hopefully, his confidence continues to grow. I was very happy to see him hit the ball the other way [on Monday] because I hadn't seen that yet."
Quote to note
"Can you pitch any better out of the closer role? He's been fantastic. I know that a lot of our guys don't have big names, and some of them have been recognized more because of how well they have played this year as a team, but if you look at his numbers, he can help the American League club." Indians manager Manny Acta, asked if closer Chris Perez should receive All-Star consideration
Indians right-hander Alex White is scheduled to begin a throwing program with light catch on Friday at the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Cleveland's medical staff will get a first-hand look at White's progress when the team is in Phoenix for an Interleague series against the D-backs next week. White has been on the disabled list since May 21 with a right middle finger injury.
Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta is scheduled to be out of his walking boot this weekend, according to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. LaPorta, who suffered a mild high right ankle sprain on Friday and is on the 15-day disabled list, will then begin a progression to baseball activities.
Indians manager Manny Acta refuted a newspaper report on Wednesday claiming that moving starter Fausto Carmona to the bullpen was a possibility if the right-hander's struggles continue. Cleveland has not considered that option. Over his past eight starts, Carmona is 1-6 with an 8.87 ERA.
Indians outfielder Michael Brantley had a scheduled day off from the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Rockies. The two-day break (Cleveland has a team off-day on Thursday) might be coming at a good time, considering Brantley has hit .180 (9-for-50) over his past 12 games.