© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/27/11 3:57 AM ET

Onus on LaPorta to join lineup's thumpers

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Matt LaPorta hopes to someday have a home in the heart of the Indians' lineup. The first baseman knows it will take patience and plenty of power for him to eventually earn that assignment.

When Opening Day arrives on Friday in Cleveland, LaPorta will be in the lower third of the local nine's batting order, in all likelihood occupying either the seventh or eighth spot. He is not sweating where he falls in the lineup, though. LaPorta knows it is up to him to convince the club to move him up in the offense's pecking order.

"For right now, it doesn't really matter," LaPorta said on Saturday afternoon. "I need to go out there and do whatever I can to help the ballclub win. But eventually, obviously it would be nice to hit in the meat of the order. Right now, wherever they need me, that's where I'll play."

LaPorta is not the only one hoping he can develop into that right-handed thumper wreaking havoc within the lineup's power district. Indians manager Manny Acta also wants to see the first baseman make a strong case for being moved up in the order.

"I hope that everybody can do that, especially him," Acta said. "He's got the power from the right side. I'm just trying to put people in situations where they can have success and also allowing them to earn it, too.

"I don't make lineups based on projections. That's not what we're all about. It's not where you project to hit. It's where we think you are right now."

Right now, the 26-year-old LaPorta has hit .163 (8-for-49) with two home runs and 10 RBIs through 17 Cactus League game. It has been a slow start for LaPorta, who labored through a slow finish last season. From Aug. 10 through the end of the year, he hit just .147 for the Tribe.

Results aside, Acta said he has seen progress from LaPorta at the plate.

"Numbers don't say the whole story," Acta said. "He does have a lot of RBIs compared to the other guys. We're just looking for consistency. We're going to throw [the spring numbers] out and start seeing results on April 1 and really judge on that."

Indians' backup catcher role still undecided

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta planned on meeting with general manager Chris Antonetti on Saturday to continue discussions about the handful of decisions remaining in camp.

Among the unsettled situations is the backup catching situation. With less than a week left before Opening Day, the Indians still have Lou Marson, Paul Phillips and Luke Carlin competing for the reserve role behind the plate. Carlos Santana will open the season as the Tribe's starting catcher.

Marson, who is the only catcher among the three currently on the 40-man roster, spent the bulk of last season with the Indians, but he hit just .195 over 87 games. This spring, the 24-year-old Marson has hit just .143 (4-for-28). Needless to say, the Indians hoped to see better production from the catcher this preseason.

"I know that he expected more, too, himself," Acta said. "We all know that there's more in there than what Lou has shown. Earlier in camp, he swung the bat well. He just got into a little funk later here.

"It's kind of tough in camp, too, because when you're playing four guys, he's not playing every single day and it's kind of tough to not have a good day and wait a day or two more to get out there. He continues to work hard.

"Yes, I'm expecting more and I know there's more in there."

Indians will look to add Buck to outfield mix

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are not going to implement a strict platoon situation in left field at the start of this season, but the club does want to work outfielder Travis Buck into the lineup as much as possible early on.

"Buck is going to see a significant amount of time," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "because we have decisions to make."

Acta referred to the expected return of center fielder Grady Sizemore, who is making his way back from microfracture surgery on his left knee. Sizemore will likely begin this season on the 15-day disabled list, but he could return sometime in April if everything goes according to plan.

That being the case, Cleveland would need to remove one of its reserve outfielders from the roster upon Sizemore's return. Right now, Buck and Shelley Duncan are in the plans for the backup outfield roles. Austin Kearns is not expected to be in danger of losing his job when Sizemore comes back.

In fact, Kearns will probably be in left field when the Indians take on the White Sox on Opening Day. Michael Brantley will likely be in center and Shin-Shoo Choo in right. When Sizemore does eventually rejoin the team, Brantley would slide to left field and Kearns would shift to the bench.

"We know Kearns' position here," Acta said. "We know what he can do and what he's going to do. We need to find out about [Buck]."

This spring, Buck has hit .404 with four home runs and 12 RBIs through 18 Cactus League games as a non-roster invitee. The Indians announced on Friday that Buck would break camp with the Major League club.

Huffman crowded out of deep outfield

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As far as the Indians are concerned, Chad Huffman performed well enough this spring to make the Opening Day roster. Unfortunately for Huffman, a crowded crop of outfielders worked against him.

That left the Tribe with a tough decision to make.

In the end, Cleveland opted to hand the reserve outfielder role to Travis Buck. Huffman remains in camp with the big league team, and he will stay with the club for its exhibition game in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, but he is ticketed for Triple-A Columbus.

"Chad, to his credit," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, "did everything he could to earn an opportunity on the Major League team. He played very well defensively in both corner outfield spots. He put up consistent at-bats. He ran the bases well. He threw well.

"He played the game the right way. His intensity with every at-bat, with every play, was really good to see. He had a great camp. We feel like he's a Major League play and, if and when we have a need, we would feel very comfortable giving him a Major League opportunity."

The Indians claimed Huffman off waivers from the Yankees last September. This spring with the Tribe, the 25-year-old outfielder has hit at a .341 clip with three homers and 12 RBIs through 19 Cactus League games. His performance made delivering news of his demotion all the more difficult.

"It's always tough, especially when the guys play well," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "At the same time, it's a sign of progress when you have tough decisions. Huffman clearly had probably the best camp so far, him and Buck. It was tough.

"We're very happy to have a guy like Huffman that, at any time, we can grab him from down there."

Carrera shows impressive skills in spring

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Ezequiel Carrera was in camp with the Indians to gain experience. The outfielder got plenty of that and he also left a lasting impression after being optioned back to Triple-A Columbus.

"He did enough for us to feel confident that, if something happens over here," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "we could bring him up here. He did a very nice job defensively, which we all knew coming in that he was a very good defensive player.

"Offensively, he created some havoc out there when he had a chance to bunt or slap the ball around and run the bases. It's nice to know that we have a guy like him for depth."

The Indians acquired the 23-year-old Carrera as part of the June 2010 trade that sent Russell Branyan to the Mariners. In 22 Cactus League games this spring, the left-handed-hitting center fielder hit .286 with one home run, three sacrifice bunts, four stolen bases, eight runs, 11 walks and a .434 on-base percentage.

"Ezequiel had a great camp," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He certainly continued to put up consistent quality at-bats throughout the course of camp, showed his speed, both playing the small game a little bit and on the bases.

"We feel good about where he is and hopefully he can be an alternative for us in the event that we have a need."

Smoke signals

Indians manager Manny Acta said Saturday that the ballclub would have players and staff members on hand for Thursday's public memorial service for the late Bob Feller. "We're going to be well represented over there," Acta said. "Not the whole team, but we'll be as well represented as we can." The service will begin at 11 a.m. ET at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights. ... Infielder Jason Donald, who will open this season on the disabled list with a left hand injury, hopes to resume some type of swinging activity within the next week. ... Right-handers Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot, who will begin this season as the Tribe's Nos. 4 and 5 starters, will remain in Arizona after the club leaves for Wednesday's exhibition game against Triple-A Columbus in Columbus, Ohio. Tomlin and Talbot will pitch in a Minor League game on Wednesday in Arizona and will join the team in Cleveland for Opening Day. ... Right-hander Joe Smith (strained abdominal muscle) played catch on Saturday and built up to a distance of 120 feet. Smith will likely open this season on the disabled list, but he has not officially been ruled out for the Opening Day roster. ... First baseman Nick Johnson (right wrist) took some dry swings on Friday. "That's progress," Acta said. There is no established timetable for Johnson's return.

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.