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11/05/10 9:47 AM EST

Indians outright infielder Marte to Minors

Former top prospect was unable to live up to expectations

CLEVELAND -- One can never be sure if we've seen the last of Andy Marte in an Indians uniform. He has done an exceptional job of hanging around in recent years, often in spite of himself.

But the Tribe once again removed Marte from the 40-man roster Friday, and the guy once erroneously dubbed to be the Indians' third baseman of the future could be a part of their past. Marte, who was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus, is now a free agent.

Nearly five years ago, Marte was the stud hot-corner prospect who was billed as the centerpiece of a controversial trade that sent Coco Crisp to Boston. Marte's Minor League power and defensive aplomb had the Indians believing he could one day be a centerpiece in the middle of their order.

Marte's tenure with the Tribe, however, saw him either playing infrequently or producing inconsistently. In 277 games with the Indians over the past five years, he hit a combined .224 with a .650 OPS, 20 homers and 92 RBIs in 781 at-bats.

In Spring Training of '09, the Indians designated Marte, who was out of Minor League options, for assignment, thereby removing him from the 40-man. No team claimed him, and he humbly reported back to Triple-A. Unexpectedly, he had a remarkable Minor League season, batting .327 with a .963 OPS in 82 games at Columbus. The Indians had no choice but to return him to the 40-man to see what he could contribute in the final two months of the season. But Marte couldn't take his hot hitting to the big leagues, as he batted .232 with six homers and 25 RBIs in 47 games down the stretch.

Thanks to the Indians' rebuilding efforts and their young and developing roster, Marte was able to maintain a job in the Majors throughout the 2010 season. He batted .229 with a .680 OPS in 80 games and once again proved not to be the answer at third in the wake of the Jhonny Peralta trade with the Tigers.

Now, the Marte era in Cleveland once again appears to be over.

Then again, in matters involving Marte, projections are rarely reliable.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.