Friday, June 09, 2006

Indians Kelly Shoppach's Horizon Draws Closer

If the Indians continue to struggle, a long-term plan to call up catcher Kelly Shoppach to replace Victor Martinez at backstop may happen sooner than later. The switchhitting Martinez, who has one of the worst arms of any everyday catcher since Mike Piazza, would be ideal for the No. 5 spot in the batting order and likely would prolong his career and be able to concentrate on improving his hot-and-cold hitting if he came out from behind the plate to play first base. Key to this arrangement is Shoppach, 25, who was acquired from Boston in the Coco Crisp deal. Shoppach was hardly a throw-in, having hit 49 homers over the past two years at AAA Pawtucket and having won the 2001 Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top collegiate catcher when he batted .397 with 12 homers in 300 at-bats for the Baylor Bears. Shoppach's arm is respected even among the fleetest baserunners and he had only had only one error in 406 chances at Baylor. Shoppach easily might have won Cleveland's backup catching spot out of spring camp, but was sent to the AAA Buffalo Bisons for the benefit of everyday play. He currently is batting .300 for the Bisons.