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04/04/08 10:10 PM ET
Getting Marte at-bats a challenge
With Blake at third and first jammed, opportunity is limited
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Andy Marte, as expected, made the Indians' Opening Day roster. So now what? Getting Marte sufficient at-bats to gauge his progress at the big league level will be a challenge for manager Eric Wedge this season. With Casey Blake entrenched at third, Marte has been and will be doing a lot of sitting. "He'll pick up Casey from time to time at third base," Wedge said of Marte's outlook. "When we give Casey a day off, we'll play Andy over there." During Spring Training, the Indians had Marte taking some fly balls in the outfield. But that experiment didn't last long. Pressing to make his worth known, Marte labored in the field. He made six errors. The Indians, fearing Marte was getting in his own head, didn't want to complicate things further, so they cut off the outfield experiment entirely. "We put that on the back burner," Wedge said. Also apparently on the back burner are Marte's chances of playing much first base. The Indians had him learn the position during winter ball this offseason, and he saw some action there in Grapefruit League play. But Ryan Garko and Victor Martinez remain the primary options at that spot. "We wouldn't [play Marte at first] just to do it," Wedge said, "but we need to stay flexible as much as possible." The 24-year-old Marte is in this playing-time predicament because he is out of Minor League options and the Indians don't want to risk exposing him to waivers. But another predicament is looming. When outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, also out of options, is fully recovered from Tommy John left elbow ligament replacement surgery, the Indians will add him to their big league roster. Someone will have to go, and carrying a backup third baseman might lose whatever appeal it currently possesses. That decision, however, is still a ways out. Choo remains in Winter Haven, Fla., at extended spring camp and likely won't be ready to join the big league club until after he completes a rehab stint at Triple-A Buffalo. Such a stint probably won't take place until May. "He's still just progressing with everything," Wedge said of Choo. "He's playing some at DH to get some at-bats, and he [is] throwing out to 150 feet. It's just a matter of the repetitions. Timeline-wise, he's right on target."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.