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02/17/08 2:11 PM ET
Notes: Marte almost out of time, options
Infielder hopes to earn a backup role during Spring Training
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Andy Marte knows he has a lot to prove, and he knows he's running out of time to prove it. "I'm out of [Minor League] options," Marte said. "I'm trying to work hard here in Spring Training and stay here. I don't want to go somewhere else. If it happens, I've got to go wherever they send me and be a professional. But I like the Indians. I like how they treat their players." The Indians, keeping in mind the hard lesson they learned when they sent Brandon Phillips to the Reds two years ago, don't appear inclined to deal Marte before the end of camp. The plan is for him to grab a spot on the big league bench, backing up Casey Blake at third and perhaps even getting into the mix at first base. But Marte, 24, is behind the timeline the Indians envisioned for him when they acquired him from the Red Sox in the 2006 Coco Crisp trade. He was expected to be their everyday third baseman by now, not a bench player. Though his spot on the Opening Day roster appears secure, Marte still has to impress his bosses. Because when outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is rehabbing after elbow surgery and also out of options, is ready to join the club a month or so into the season, the roster will get squeezed. So what do the Indians want to see out of Marte? "His in-game at-bats need to get better," manager Eric Wedge said. "You can see him doing it in batting practice, and I like the way he moves around defensively. He's a good kid and he works hard, but he needs to be a more professional hitter." Marte, who was the Tribe's Opening Day third baseman last year until he strained his left hamstring in April, batted just .267 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs at Triple-A Buffalo in '07, and he followed that up by hitting just .198 in 30 games in the Dominican Winter League. Marte's winter ball experience was geared around his getting acclimated to first base, where he'll see some time this spring. "I thought it was a lot easier than third," Marte said. "I was more relaxed, and I had more time to field the ball." But when it comes to proving himself with the Indians, Marte's time is running short. Preoccupied papa: In a rare sight, Wedge's Blackberry was firmly in his grip everywhere he went on Sunday morning. Wedge had good reason to be glued to the phone. His wife, Kate, will be induced into labor on Monday at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, and his 22-month-old daughter, Ava, was sick and in the same hospital. "I'm not a nervous person by nature," Wedge said, "but when it comes to this stuff, it's impossible not to be." Wedge was set to fly up to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon to be there for the birth of the couple's first son. He will re-join the Indians on Tuesday. The Wedges had not yet settled on a name for the boy. "We've narrowed it down to a couple," Wedge said. "But I think we want to look at him, then decide." No catch: Ryan Garko shed quite a few pounds this winter, and he won't be adding the pounds that come with catcher's equipment. Last year, the Indians had Garko, a converted backstop who was competing to join the club at first base, catch a few bullpen sessions in the early days of camp. That won't be the case this time around. "That was my decision," Wedge said. "I didn't want to risk injury by him catching bullpens just for the sake of catching bullpens." Garko, though, is still considered the Tribe's third, emergency catcher. Wedge was happy to see Garko, who looks as though he's lost 15-20 pounds, come to camp in such fine shape. "We talked to him about it [at the end of last season]," Wedge said. "It's a long season, and the physical side does come into play." Sweet swing: Wedge watched his catchers take batting practice and was in awe of Victor Martinez's supreme shape -- he lost 13 pounds this winter -- and his supreme swing.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.