Left Field Spot Presents Many Options
By Christian Petrila
Position battles make spring a terrific chance for a relative unknown to make a roster and contribute. One such battle for the Indians takes place in left field. With Grady Sizemore already sidelined for Opening Day, Michael Brantley will have to shift to centerfield, leaving left field a vacant, wide open competition. It’s like a game show. Your contestants are Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan, Ryan Spilborghs and Matt LaPorta.
First is the tale of Aaron Cunningham. He’s been on the west coast his entire career, playing two seasons withOaklandfollowed by two seasons withSan Diego. In 150 Major League games, he’s hitting .231 with six home runs and 44 RBI. In the minors however, he is a completely different player. In 270 games in AAA, he’s hit .304 with 32 home runs and 170 RBI. If Cunningham can come close to putting up those numbers this spring, he could be the starting left fielder on Opening Day.
The next contender is a man who has bounced between Cleveland and Columbus the past few seasons–Shelley Duncan. “The Dunc Tank” made the most of his September call-up, hitting .265 with seven home runs and 23 RBI. Fans may also remember his performance inTexaswhen he made spectacular catches on three consecutive plays. Last season was Duncan’s best year statistically, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to platoon at DH with Travis Hafner, especially against lefty pitchers. Left field is a great possibility, though.
After Casey Kotchman, arguably the second-biggest Indian free agent signing was Ryan Spilborghs. In his seven-year career, he is a .272 hitter with 42 home runs and 218 RBI. However, 2011 was probably his worst career season. He only hit .210 with three home runs and 22 RBI. Not only that, but Coors Field is also much more hitter-friendly than Progressive Field. In 2011, he only hit .129 away from theMileHighCity. If those are the numbers he brings in spring, it will be a quick audition for Spilborghs.
The fourth candidate is Matt LaPorta. Now you’ve had some time to absorb that, allow me to explain why that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Although LaPorta has primarily played first base, he is a converted outfielder. However, he’s struggled in his brief Major League career. In about two-and-a-half seasons, his career average is a dismal .238. Since he still has a minor league option, it is highly likely that he will open the season inColumbus. He could theoretically have a mammoth spring and be the left fielder on Opening Day, but that’s a long shot.
This should be an interesting spring for these four athletes. One can only speculate who will be LEFT.