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01/16/09 12:11 PM EST
Garko to take a shot at playing outfield
First baseman to experiment with position change in Spring Training
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- With a likely logjam at first base, the Indians are apparently open to alternative means for Ryan Garko to find a home in their lineup. Very alternative measures. Like having Garko try the outfield in Spring Training camp. That little nugget of information was revealed by manager Eric Wedge during a "Town Hall" discussion with current and former season-ticket holders at Solon High School on Thursday night. It's information Garko himself hadn't been told. "He doesn't know [if he can do it]," Wedge said with a smile, "and I don't know if he can do it yet, either." Wedge said second baseman Josh Barfield will also get some outfield repetitions for the first time this spring. Infielders Mark DeRosa and Jamey Carroll, both of whom have played the outfield previously, will join Garko and Barfield in the part-time outfield mix in Goodyear, Ariz. "I don't care where people play," Wedge said, "as long as they're able to make the play. I just want to put the best lineup out there." Garko is a converted catcher who plays first base like a hockey goalie. The thought of him manning the outfield is certainly a novel one. But the Indians have a need for some outfield depth on the big league stage, now that Franklin Gutierrez has been traded to the Mariners. Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe are highly regarded prospects, but they're not expected to be ready for prime time immediately this season. With Grady Sizemore entrenched in center field, Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Francisco are slated to be the regular starters in right and left fields, respectively. And Wedge said he's still holding out hope David Dellucci, who has hit a combined .235 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in two seasons with the Tribe, can rebound from his injury woes of 2007 and his performance woes of '08. "I still feel there's something in there," Wedge said. Dellucci will be the club's fourth outfielder, and it doesn't appear all that likely the Indians will carry a fifth at the outset of the season. So look for DeRosa, who appeared in 65 games in the outfield for the Cubs last year, to see some time in the outfield corners. "Even though it's not [DeRosa's] most comfortable position," Wedge said, "he's OK out there." To hear Wedge talk, it appears more and more likely the Indians are open to keeping Barfield, who missed nearly three months last season with a left middle finger strain that required surgery, aboard as a second reserve infielder. If Barfield's able to play the outfield, that only serves to add to his value to the club. As for Garko, the ability to play the outfield would present him with a way of remaining in the lineup, even if Victor Martinez sees more time at first, Kelly Shoppach gets regular starts behind the plate and Travis Hafner remains entrenched at DH. Of course, it's an idea that is very much in the experimental phase. If nothing else, Wedge gets points for creativity.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.