Just as quickly as 25-year-old rookie Matt LaPorta was penciled in as the starting first baseman for the 2010 Indians, he has been penciled out with the unexpected signing of free agent veteran Russell Branyan, 34.
Likewise, rising young outfielders Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe stand to be benched or demoted to the minors as newly named manager Manny Acta likely can be expected to dole out the majority of playing time to such other veterans as Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.
In anticipation of a game of musical chairs, LaPorta already has begun taking defensive drills in left field, the only position remaining for him, even though that is the position which had been expected to be claimed by Brantley, son of former major leaguer Mickey Brantley.
"At the end of the day, if everybody's healthy, it obviously is going to impact one of those young guys," Acta told reporters gathered at the team's Cactus League spring training camp at Goodyear, Ariz. "But I guarantee you, both of those guys are going to play every single day somewhere."
With Hafner and Sizemore both hampered last season by various injuries and ailments, the team was left without a great deal of depth should one or both be unable to play up to form, Acta said.
He hinted that some or all -- including Branyan -- will need downtime to stay healthy, thus creating opportunities for the bench.
Without Branyan, who hit 31 homers in 431 at-bats in an injury shortened effort for the Mariners last season, "we were an injury away from not feeling as comfortable," Acta said.