"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."