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05/01/09 11:37 PM ET
Tribe to promote LaPorta, two others
Indians prospect to join team as part of three roster moves
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Manager Eric Wedge hinted before Friday's game that the Indians would probably make a postgame roster move. Wedge was a bit misleading. The Indians made three of them, promoting their top position playing prospect in the process. Outfielder Matt LaPorta, the key acquisition in last July's CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers, will join the Tribe at Comerica Park on Saturday, and he'll be joined by Luis Valbuena and Josh Barfield. All three players will be promoted from Triple-A Columbus. The trio will take the place of right-hander Joe Smith, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff, outfielder Trevor Crowe, who was optioned back to Columbus, and veteran infielder Tony Graffanino, who was designated for assignment. Those moves, combined with the activation of outfielder David Dellucci earlier in the day, provided a major overhaul of the roster of a Tribe team off to a disappointing 9-14 start. And with designated hitter Travis Hafner on the DL with right shoulder soreness, the Indians are going to get creative with their lineup. Wedge said the 24-year-old LaPorta, who was batting .333 with five homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.054 OPS in 21 games at Columbus, will serve as the right-handed complement to left-handed veteran Dellucci. That could mean LaPorta is due to see regular playing time against left-handed starters. The Indians will face two of them in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday. "We're going to take it day by day," Wedge said. "But he's coming up here for a reason. He's been swinging the bat well down there." Likewise for Valbuena, who was batting .321 with three homers, 13 RBIs and a .975 OPS while getting regular playing time at second base, shortstop and third. Valbuena, acquired in a three-way trade with the Mariners and Mets over the winter, will assume the infield utility role that Graffanino had taken over for an injured Jamey Carroll. "It's a left-handed bat that complements the left side of our infield and gives us a little more versatility," Wedge said. Wedge had been thinking about benching shortstop Jhonny Peralta for a few games, but Peralta's 2-for-5 night with a homer against the Tigers on Friday might have spared him that fate. Regardless, Valbuena would give Wedge the flexibility to rest his infielders or move them to the DH spot. The Smith injury came as a surprise, as the Indians had never hinted that he was hurting. The Indians do not believe the injury is serious, and Wedge implied that the DL stint will largely be used as a second Spring Training, of sorts, for Smith, who battled a viral infection in Arizona before posting a 7.11 ERA in his first eight appearances in the regular season. "He's had some soreness," Wedge said. "He didn't have much of a Spring Training. This is going to allow us to make sure we get the soreness out of there and let him pitch a little bit on rehab, then get him back up here. He's a guy who's going to help us." Crowe was called on to help out when Dellucci strained his calf muscle toward the end of spring camp. He appeared in 12 games, batting .182 (6-for-33) with a stolen base. Barfield will ostensibly replace Crowe, in that he'll now be the position player who's primary purpose is to provide some speed off the bench. Barfield can help out at second base and in the outfield. Graffanino appeared in seven games, batting .130 (3-for-23).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.