There's Hope Available On Farm

Andy Marte

About all Indians fans have to look forward to in 2009 is the last out of the final game. Then this most disappointing season will be over. Until then, however, the Indians would be wise to promote some players from the minors and jettison the castoffs they have added to the big-league roster such as Winston Abreu. Andy Marte deserves another look and Matt LaPorta should get some big-league ABs.

Marte went 4-for-4 with four RBI on Thursday night to power Columbus to a 6-2 win. He hit two more homers, giving him impressive offensive numbers across the board.

In the current issue of Indians Ink Magazine, publisher Frank Derry interviews both Marte and Clippers hitting coach Jon Nunnally about the turnaround. Both of them, along with Clippers manager Torey Lovullo, insist that Marte has re-dedicated himself to the game, made some key changes into his approach, and is a new player.

Then it is time to get him back in the majors and see if that approach works against the best opposition. It will be Marte's last chance with the organization, which thought it had given him a last chance a year ago before releasing him.

No other teams showed interest, however, and so the Indians signed their once-promising prospect to a minor-league deal and sent him to Columbus. The plan was for him to back up young Wes Hodges, who had an outstanding season a year ago at Double-A Akron and was regarded as the Tribe's third baseman of the future.

Hodges' star was so bright that Tribe GM Mark Shapiro figured he only needed Mark DeRosa for one year at third, and then Hodges could be ready.

Baseball can be such a strange game, however. The Indians fell out of contention quickly and Shapiro dealt away DeRosa for more prospects. Hodges got hurt. And so Lovullo was forced to play Marte.

Now, he doesn't want him out of the lineup. In 78 games, the third baseman is hitting .329 with 17 homers and 64 RBI. He leads the Clippers in all those categories and is second on the team in doubles with 22, four behind Jordan Brown.

One aspect of Marte's game that put him in management's doghouse has not changed, however. He has drawn only 19 walks. But he has cut his strikeout totals drastically, fanning only 47 times.

Speaking of Brown, as well as LaPorta, both of them deserve a shot in Cleveland, too.

Brown is hitting .324 with 10 homers and 47 RBI, though he has only 21 walks to go with a team-high 51 strikeouts.

LaPorta, who had a few sparse at-bats in a May callup to the Indians, has gone back to Columbus and picked up right where he left off. In 70 games at Triple-A, he is hitting .314 with 12 homers and 47 RBI.

The organization, in its maddening desire to seemingly win a championship in musical chairs rather than a World Series, has switched Brown from first base to left field and LaPorta from left field to first base.

Neither were considered stalwart defensive players to start with, though both are passable fielders.

Accumulating players without agility and defensive upside have been an organizational trait that have given Cleveland such players as Ryan Garko, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and others in recent years.

One player in Columbus who shows signs of playing well on both sides of the ball is center fielder Michael Brantley. He has been exceptional in the field, while hitting .266 with 64 runs, 16 doubles, four homers and 28 RBI out of the leadoff spot. He's also gone 35-for-39 in stolen base attempts.

Brantley is younger than all those other prospects, however, and should remain in the minors to continue his development.

There's no reason the other three shouldn't be in Cleveland right now, getting a chance.

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