Friday, June 23, 2006

Kelly Shoppack Era Begins in Earnest for Indians

Young Kelly Shoppack's appearance as starting catcher for the Indians, following the demotion of veteran Tim Laker to Buffalo, marks the embryonic beginning of Victor Martinez's tenure as first baseman and Shoppack's as top backstop. Martinez will remain the primary catcher for the rest of the year, as the change will come slowly at first. The Indians have little need to find fault with the team's current deployment of the Eduardo Perez-Ben Broussard first base tandem. But this is a glimpse of what the Cleveland lineup will be in years to come. Moving the switchhitting Martinez, who has one of the worst arms of any everyday catcher since Mike Piazza, to first base will prolong his career and enable him to improve his hot-and-cold hitting. Key to this arrangement is Shoppach, 25, who was acquired from Boston in the Coco Crisp deal. Shoppack hit 49 homers over the past two years at AAA Pawtucket before coming to Cleveland from the Red Sox. He won the 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 in 2001. Shoppach not only can hit, his defense is excellent, having only one error in 406 chances at Baylor.