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Indians option Luna to Triple-A

Indians option Luna to Triple-A

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Hector Luna has played himself off the Indians roster.

The Indians optioned Luna, who had come into Spring Training as the front-runner for the club's utility infield job, to Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday morning, leaving Mike Rouse and Luis Rivas as the only remaining candidates for the position.

"It was a clear decision," general manager Mark Shapiro said, "based on his performance in Spring Training and last season."

In other roster moves, right-hander Brian Sikorski, infielder Keith Ginter and catcher Armando Camacaro were reassigned to Minor League camp. The Indians now have 34 players in their clubhouse with a week left in Spring Training.

Luna dropped his opportunity to land a spot on the Tribe's Opening Day roster. And that's not all he dropped. In 17 Grapefruit League games, he made eight errors -- the most of any player in the Majors this spring.

The Indians tried Luna out at every spot in the infield, and he had trouble with each of them. He made three errors at shortstop, three at third base, one at second and one at first.

At the plate, the 27-year-old Luna hit .241 (7-for-29) with one RBI.

Luna and the Indians have a bit of a shaky history with each other. The club signed him as a non-drafted free agent in 1999, but exposed him to, and lost him in, the Rule 5 Draft not once, but twice -- to the Rays in 2002 and to the Cardinals in 2003.

July's trade that sent Ronnie Belliard to the Cards brought Luna back again, but his play in 37 games with the Tribe was underwhelming, with Luna hitting .276 with two homers and 17 RBIs. The Indians weren't satisfied with his range up the middle and asked him to report to camp in better shape.

When that report date came, Luna's body didn't look any different, which was a point of frustration for manager Eric Wedge.

"A big part of what you have to do is get in shape, stay in shape and put your body in a position where you can perform," Wedge said. "Hector is still working toward that."

The Indians, quite simply, expected more out of Luna. He's no rookie.

"Hector's been around," Wedge said. "He has some experience. He knows what he has to do."

With Luna out of the picture, the fight for the utility spot -- a job the Indians have quite a bit of interest in, given shortstop Jhonny Peralta's struggles last season -- is down to two. Wedge said a decision will be made by the middle of the coming week.

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"We're closer," Wedge said, "but we won't make our final decisions until the middle of the week. Like I said early on, we're going to give this all the time we can. As long as we have our team put together by the middle of the week, we'll be in good shape."

The Indians will not be carrying two utility infielders, Wedge said. But that still doesn't mean first baseman Ryan Garko is guaranteed the 25th spot on the club, as it's still possible the Tribe will carry five outfielders.

"We still have other people here, too," Wedge said. "We still have [Ben] Francisco here, we still have [Franklin] Gutierrez here. We still have other ways we can go with this thing."

As far as the decision on who will be the utility infielder, Rouse has the upper-hand on Rivas, given his spot on the 40-man roster and the fact that he's out of Minor League options.

The Indians plucked Rouse off waivers from the A's in September, after he made just eight errors in 98 games at shortstop for Triple-A Sacramento. In 14 spring games, the left-handed-hitting Rouse has batted .333 (11-for-33) with two homers and seven RBIs.

"He's had a very strong camp," Wedge said of Rouse. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. Obviously, he's right in the middle of everything."

Rivas, on the other hand, has struggled at the plate, batting .176 (6-for-34).

But the Indians aren't entirely concerned with the offensive numbers of the candidates.

"We said from the beginning," Shapiro said, "that the main criteria was going to be defense up the middle."

That criteria eliminated Luna from the job the Indians were ready, willing and able to hand him.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }