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12/18/09 1:35 PM EST

Rehabbing LaPorta grabbing degree

Tribe first baseman hopes to be ready for Spring Training

CLEVELAND -- Matt LaPorta, two months removed from surgeries on his left hip and his left big toe, is off crutches.

And that's a good thing, because LaPorta has an important walk to make this weekend.

LaPorta has completed his recreation and event planning degree at the University of Florida, and he plans to walk in the commencement ceremony on campus Saturday.

"It was important, because it was unfinished business," LaPorta said. "I went to school for four years. It was right there for me to take hold of it and graduate. It wasn't something out of reach. Baseball might not always be around for me. I need my education to fall back on."

Of course, the 24-year-old LaPorta has no plans to put his degree to use just yet. There is still plenty of baseball to be played.

LaPorta projects as the Tribe's regular at first base in 2010. But first, he'll have to fully recover from the pair of surgeries, which will probably have him a bit behind his teammates in Spring Training camp.

All told, LaPorta will need somewhere between two and four more months to be completely recovered from the two procedures. He had arthroscopic surgery on his hip, which had bothered him for the last few weeks of the '09 season, and a second surgery to stabilize a joint in his toe, which was injured when he ran into the outfield wall on the last day of the season in Boston.

The surgeries were performed by specialists in Vail, Colo., and LaPorta has spent much of the offseason in Goodyear, Ariz., where he has undergone a rehab program.

He said he's coming along well.

"I'm feeling really good," LaPorta said. "I'm very pleased with where I am right now. I think I should be ready for Spring Training."

LaPorta is still wearing a boot on his left foot on occasion, but he's able to walk around. He'll have a recheck with his doctors in Vail in mid-January. After that point, he hopes to initiate baseball activities.

"The toe is the longer rehab period," LaPorta said. "It's probably the more serious [surgery] of the two. But I'm confident in the doctors and all the therapy I'm doing that everything will be 100 percent again."

Once he's back to 100 percent, LaPorta hopes to build on an '09 season that saw him get his first taste of the Major Leagues. He posted a .299 average and .917 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A Columbus and a .254 average and .750 OPS in 52 games with the Indians, who acquired him in the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

So 2009 will go down as the year LaPorta graduated to the big leagues and graduated college.

"I tried to make the most of my time while at Florida," he said. "I just didn't want to waste anything."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.