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01/06/11 4:46 PM EST

Indians designate Brown, make room for Kearns

CLEVELAND -- The Indians designated Jordan Brown for assignment on Thursday, vacating a spot on the club's roster for recently signed outfielder Austin Kearns.

Kearns was signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract by Cleveland on Dec. 20, but approval of his deal by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association was delayed due to the holidays. The Indians' 40-man roster is now at capacity.

Brown, 26, has experience as an outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter, but he would be on the bubble in terms of competing for a roster spot with the Tribe this spring. Cleveland now has 10 days to either trade, release or re-assign Brown to a Minor League affiliate.

Last season with Triple-A Columbus, Brown hit .298 with eight home runs and 67 RBIs over 83 games. He had two stints with the Tribe in 2010 and hit a combined .230 with two RBIs over 26 games. Brown made five starts as a designated hitter, seven as a left fielder and eight as a first baseman for the Indians.

Right now, Cleveland's projected outfield consists of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Shoo Choo, all of whom are left-handed hitters. Kearns provides a right-handed option of the bench, likely leaving one reserve outfield role up for grabs. The switch-hitting Trevor Crowe is one option, though players such as Shelley Duncan, Travis Buck and Chad Huffman will also be in the mix.

The possibility exists that Sizemore -- making his way back from left knee surgery -- will not be ready in time for Opening Day. If that turns out to be the case, there could be two outfield jobs available this spring. Versatility will be a key attribute for any players coming off Cleveland's bench.

In that regard, the Indians will keep the DH and first base backup roles in mind when making their final roster decisions. Kearns or Duncan could provide right-handed options to spell Travis Hafner at DH on occasion. Catcher Carlos Santana -- a switch-hitter -- is in the plans as a backup option at first base, where Duncan also has experience.

Last season, Kearns hit .272 with a .354 on-base percentage to go along with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in an 84-game tour with the Indians. Cleveland then dealt Kearns to the Yankees on July 30 in exchange for a player to be named later. Overall, Kearns hit at a .263 clip with a .351 on-base percentage over 120 games in 2010.

New York eventually sent big 23-year-old right-hander Zach McAllister, listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, to Cleveland to complete the trade for Kearns. McAllister split the 2010 season between Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) and Triple-A Columbus (Indians), going 9-12 with a 5.29 ERA over 27 starts.

Back with the Indians, Kearns currently projects as a part-time player, providing some days of rest against left-handed pitchers for the three starters in the outfield. Over the course of his career, including stints with the Reds and Nationals, Kearns has hit .261 with a .383 on-base percentage against southpaws.

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