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07/05/11 8:00 PM ET

Despite off year, Kearns has Acta's support

CLEVELAND -- If Austin Kearns had been the recipient of criticism from fans unsatisfied with his sub-.200 batting average and lack of power, Tribe manager Manny Acta wasn't aware.

"People? Have they?" Acta questioned when asked if Kearns silenced fans' criticism and justified his roster spot on Monday night with a go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning of a 6-3 win over the Yankees. The long ball was the outfielder's first of the season.

Kearns entered Monday's contest batting .196 with just two RBIs in 102 at-bats. He left Monday's game a hero.

"It's not easy to be a bench player and get out there and play well," Acta said. "I'm not expecting to have guys on the bench hitting .330. They wouldn't be a bench player then. They would be playing every day."

Hoping to compete for playing time in an outfield crowded with Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley, Kearns signed a Minor League contract with the Indians before the 2010 campaign. Injuries to Sizemore and Choo provided Kearns with a nightly spot in the lineup last year.

This season, despite more injuries to Sizemore and Choo, Kearns hasn't been the beneficiary of a boosted at-bat total. He's struggled to adjust.

"The fact is, this guy had never been a bench player up until last year, when we traded him to the Yankees," Acta said. "Whoever comes here to be a fourth outfielder, if our three guys are healthy -- Choo, Brantley and Sizemore -- you are in to really ride some pine. ... I respect people's opinion, but I know this guy is a good player when he gets an opportunity to play."

Tribe expecting injured group back soon

CLEVELAND -- Bodies, new and old, healthy and ailing, continue to file in and out of the Indians' clubhouse.

Manager Manny Acta said the team would likely activate Matt LaPorta from the 15-day disabled list after Tuesday's contest against the Yankees. The first baseman has been sidelined since June 17, when he suffered a mild high ankle sprain while he was cornered during a rundown.

On Tuesday, LaPorta went through a second straight day of workouts that included batting practice, fielding grounders and running the bases.

Outfielder Travis Buck, out since Friday with a mild left hamstring strain, also could return on Wednesday.

"He went through a workout [Tuesday]," Acta said. "He looks pretty close. He's probably going to be available [Wednesday]."

Right-hander Fausto Carmona left his start on Saturday after two innings upon straining his right quadriceps while running -- or stumbling, or bellyflopping -- to first base. The Indians placed Carmona on the 15-day disabled list Sunday.

Carmona's replacement, who will pitch Thursday, was expected to be named after Tuesday's game. Carmona will benefit from the All-Star break next week, and he will be eligible to return from the DL on July 18. Acta said Carmona -- 4-10 with a 5.78 ERA -- will miss only one start.

Tribe evaluating market before deadline

CLEVELAND -- Parity is alive and kicking in the Major Leagues, as few teams have been booted out of the pennant chases. Twenty of baseball's 30 teams stood within eight games of their division lead entering play on Tuesday.

With such little separation between teams, it's difficult to identify buyers and sellers as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

"There are a lot of teams talking to each other, trying to align on fits," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "But because there are a lot of teams still in contention and a lot of teams that are still competing, it's been a little bit of a slower-developing market."

Antonetti wouldn't specify on what the Indians are plotting, other than to say the team will explore opportunities to improve, especially on offense.

"Especially with [right fielder Shin-Soo] Choo suffering the injury that he suffered, I think we'll probably focus most of our efforts on improving our offense and getting a little more consistency there," Antonetti said.

Choo is expected to be sidelined until at least late August after having surgery to repair a broken thumb.

Quote to note

"[I'm] kind of stunned when he walks one. If he walks more than one, I'd want to blame the umpire."

-- Tribe skipper Manny Acta on Josh Tomlin's command, the day after the right-hander lost a no-hit bid against the Yankees in the seventh inning of a 6-3 win. Tomlin has walked just 13 batters in 109 2/3 innings and has walked the fewest batters per nine innings among all eligible Major League starters (1.1).

Smoke signals

• Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said that southpaw starter Drew Pomeranz -- 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA -- the club's first-round Draft pick in 2010, could be promoted soon from Class A Advanced Kinston.

"It's been a very good season for him," Antonetti said. "I think it's reasonable to say that at some point in the near future, he could be a candidate to move to [Double-A] Akron."

• Rookie starter Alex White was at Progressive Field throwing on Tuesday. Manager Manny Acta said White is making progress in his recovery from a sprained finger. Acta said the right-hander is "right on target."

"He will pitch again this year, unless he has a setback," Acta said of White.

• The Indians entered Tuesday's game with the best team relief ERA in the American League, at 3.02. The Yankees ranked second, at 3.03.

Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.