02/25/12 5:58 PM EST
LaPorta may be in mix for outfield vacancy
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"Who knows?" Acta said on Saturday. "We've got the whole Spring Training to find out."
Two outfield spots are reserved for Michael Brantley, who can play left or center field, and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. With Grady Sizemore out with a lower back injury for an unknown period of time, Cleveland is on the hunt for a third fit.
LaPorta, who was the Tribe's regular first baseman for the past two years, has limited experience as an outfielder in the Major Leagues. Acta recently noted that LaPorta could compete for a bench job, but only now revealed that the starting outfield opening was also a possibility.
That said, there is a long list of others in the mix.
"Everybody in camp who plays in the outfield could be my starting left fielder," Acta said. "It's pretty clear, the first day into camp, we're not going to be telling people that they don't have a shot here."
Last season, the 27-year-old LaPorta hit .247 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 107 games for the Indians, who signed free-agent Casey Kotchman to a one-year contract over the winter to be the new starting first baseman. LaPorta has not manned the outfield since 2010, but he has 46 big league games as an outfielder under his belt.
Other outfielders on the 40-man roster include Ezequiel Carrera, Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan and Thomas Neal. Outfielders in camp as non-roster invitees include Ryan Spilborghs, Felix Pie, Chad Huffman, Fred Lewis and Trevor Crowe. Two more players who will get reps in the outfield this spring are Russ Canzler and Jason Donald.
"We made it clear to everybody here that we're not just going to be looking at batting averages," Acta said of how the Indians will evaluate the competition. "For anybody to win jobs, it's going to have to be defense, baserunning and the quality of the at-bats."
In left or center field, Brantley ready to go
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Michael Brantley is used to some level of uncertainty surrounding his place in the outfield. He can play left and center field, and the Indians are spending another Spring Training determining which spot Brantley will patrol come Opening Day.
"Every spring. Same thing," Brantley said with a smile on Saturday. "The only thing that's changed is I know where I'm hitting now."
Indians manager Manny Acta noted on Friday that Brantley would begin this season as the leadoff hitter. With center fielder Grady Sizemore doubtful for the start of the year due to a lower back injury, Cleveland is not clear on whether Brantley will play left or move to center.
If Brantley prefers to be in center, he is not saying. All he is concerned about is being prepared to handle any role that Acta and the rest of the Tribe's decision makers give him.
"Wherever they want me to play, I'm more than willing to play," Brantley said. "I'm just going to wait and see how spring plays out and then we'll find out more information. Wherever the team needs me, I'll be there and I'll be ready to go."
Last season, the 24-year-old Brantley began the year in center while Sizemore finished up rehab on a left knee injury. Over the course of the season, Brantley spent 66 games in left and 52 in center. He hit .266 with seven homers, 35 extra-base hits and 46 RBIs in 114 games.
Brantley's season was cut short in August due to a right hand injury that led to surgery to remove a fractured hamate bone. The outfielder spent the offseason rehabbing the hand, but showed up to Spring Training in great shape and was a full participant in Saturday's first full-squad workout.
"I feel great about it," Brantley said. "I have no restrictions. I just look forward to being next to my teammates again. This is Day 1. I'm excited to be here. I'm just ready to go."
Donald to see time all over infield, outfield
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Donald could have come to camp this spring with four or five different gloves, but the Indians' utility man decided to keep things simple.
"One glove for the infield and one glove for the outfield," Donald said. "Simple math."
On Saturday, during Cleveland's first full-squad workout, Donald bounced between second base and shortstop during fielding drills. The plan this spring is to have Donald evenly distribute his time between those two spots and third base, with some outfield added into the mix in a few weeks.
A year ago, Donald was in the running for the Indians' starting role at third base, but that job now rests in the hands of either Jack Hannahan or Lonnie Chisenhall. Without a clear position for him to handle, Donald has embraced the chance to become a versatile option off the Tribe's bench.
"Right now, the biggest thing for me is just preparing to play," Donald said. "It's making sure that my body is ready to go come game time when we start spring games, whatever position I have to play on the field. Thinking about the opportunity, what could come of it, is nice.
"That's in the back of my mind. But ultimately, I'm thinking about just today and getting ready for these Spring Training games and trying to be prepared for that."
Last spring, Donald had his left hand broken by a pitch on March 5, costing him a spot on the Opening Day roster. A left knee injury while at Triple-A Columbus complicated matters, delaying his return to the big leagues. When Donald did eventually rejoin the Indians, he hit .318 in 39 games with a .377 average against lefties.
That performance helped put Donald in a good position to earn a job with Cleveland this spring.
"He's the leading candidate," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You guys saw what he did for us last year."
As for playing some outfield, Donald said he is excited for the challenge. He appeared in a handful of instructional league games in the outfield and will see some action out there again at some point in March. It is just one more way for Donald to offer Cleveland a backup plan and a way for him to find more at-bats.
"The first time I did it, I felt like I was in high school playing football again," said Donald, who played quarterback and safety in those days. "It's something I would embrace if the opportunity presented itself on a consistent basis.
"Whatever would need to be done on my end to get more at-bats, or help our ballclub -- whatever it is, I'll do it."
The Indians held their first full-squad workout of Spring Training on Saturday. All four diamonds were alive with activity, with position players added to the mix for fielding drills and batting practice.
Russ Canzler, who has experience at both corner outfield and infield spots, spent the bulk of his day working out at first base for the Tribe. Canzler -- acquired in an offseason trade with the Rays -- is in the mix for a bench job.
Former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton, who is in camp as a guest instructor this spring, had a little fun after Saturday's workout. The 44-year-old coach participated in sprint drills with the position players.
Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez was presented with a Sports Emmy award on Saturday. Jimenez received the trophy for his involvement in a Root Sports documentary during his time with the Colorado Rockies.
Quote to note
"We proved what we could do last year in the beginning of the first half. We just need to stay there through an entire season and make the playoffs." --Indians outfielder Michael Brantley