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Branyan's already won Tribe's 1B job

2/25/2010

Hey, a bit of surprising news from the Indians already!

    Russell Branyan passed his physical today and officially became the Indians starting first baseman. That's right he'll be starting at first base.

    "He's going to get the majority of playing time," said manager Manny Acta. "We didn't sign him to be a backup guy."

    That means Matt LaPorta will be on the move to left field. He still could play some first base, but Acta made it clear Branyan is going to be the regular there.

    If LaPorta starts in left field, Michael Brantley could be headed for Class AAA Columbus.

    "Those two young kids (LaPorta and Brantley) are going to be playing every day this season," said Acta.

    The Indians manager just didn't say at what level.

If Hafner's in the lineup, LaPorta and Brantley can't both play every day. And considering that 1) LaPorta's 25, and 2) the Indians gave up CC Sabathia to get him, we should probably assume that LaPorta gets first crack at an every-day job with the big club.

Which is fair enough, I think.

I like Brantley, too. But he's only 22, and while he hit .313 with the Indians last fall, he did not homer and has not showed much power in the minors, either. That's OK. He's super-fast, gets on base and, even in left field, his defense may balance his lack of power.

There's no rush, though. Maybe he's a fourth outfielder in the long run or maybe he's a regular, but right now there's little lost if he opens the season in the minors. Maybe he learns something, and maybe the Indians wind up delaying his arbitration clock by a year.

Sure, it's tough on the kid. He probably figures he's earned a job and with many teams he'd be right. But when the Indians just couldn't pass on Branyan -- at $2 million this season, a real bargain -- Brantley got squeezed out. If he's really good enough to play every day, this will be just a hiccup in his fine career.

(Glove Slap: Craig)