CLEVELAND -- If Austin Kearns had been the recipient of criticism from fans unsatisfied with his sub-.200 batting average and lack of power, Tribe manager Manny Acta wasn't aware.
"People? Have they?" Acta questioned when asked if Kearns silenced fans' criticism and justified his roster spot on Monday night with a go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning of a 6-3 win over the Yankees. The long ball was the outfielder's first of the season.
Kearns entered Monday's contest batting .196 with just two RBIs in 102 at-bats. He left Monday's game a hero.
"It's not easy to be a bench player and get out there and play well," Acta said. "I'm not expecting to have guys on the bench hitting .330. They wouldn't be a bench player then. They would be playing every day."
Hoping to compete for playing time in an outfield crowded with Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley, Kearns signed a Minor League contract with the Indians before the 2010 campaign. Injuries to Sizemore and Choo provided Kearns with a nightly spot in the lineup last year.
This season, despite more injuries to Sizemore and Choo, Kearns hasn't been the beneficiary of a boosted at-bat total. He's struggled to adjust.
"The fact is, this guy had never been a bench player up until last year, when we traded him to the Yankees," Acta said. "Whoever comes here to be a fourth outfielder, if our three guys are healthy -- Choo, Brantley and Sizemore -- you are in to really ride some pine. ... I respect people's opinion, but I know this guy is a good player when he gets an opportunity to play."