Monday, March 10, 2008

Indians Try to Ease Pressure for 3B Andy Marte

To build his confidence, Indians backup third baseman Andy Marte has been told he will make the team out of camp even if he continues to struggle at the plate. Still, it's inevitable that Marte cannot be carried on the roster forever, and must show something soon.

A 96-at bat stint in the Dominican Winter League over the offseason seems only to have set Marte back further, as he hit only .198 against often mediocre or undeveloped pitchers. This spring Marte appears to be making better contact, but still has failed to hit with authority as his average continues to founder in the .200 range, although he has hit one homer.

Marte -- once a top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system -- has done nothing but decline since arriving in Cleveland from Boston in the Coco Crisp trade in 2006, with Indians coaches having repeatedly tinkered with his swing.

Having failed in the development of such prospects as Brandon Phillips, Josh Barfield, Jason Dubois and Jody Gerut, it would seem Coach Derek Shelton and other hitting instructors throughout the system are on trial just as much as Marte, especially since Marte is out of options and will be exposed to other teams if Cleveland tries to send him back to Buffalo again.

Would Marte rediscover himself with a change of setting, as did Phillips once he escaped to Cincinnati? The Indians cannot afford to find out.