CLEVELAND -- A year ago, the "shape up or ship out" ultimatum was issued to shortstop Jhonny Peralta. The Indians weren't happy with Peralta's sometimes-lethargic play, his physical conditioning or his plate discipline, and they wanted him to dedicate his winter to improving his overall game. Peralta responded just as the Tribe had hoped, delivering an '07 season that more closely aligned to the team's expectations of the youngster. This year, it's Andy Marte getting challenged, albeit under different circumstances.
Marte isn't an established big-leaguer hoping to hold onto his everyday job. Rather, when the Indians report to Spring Training in February, the 24-year-old Marte will be out of Minor League options and merely be trying to land a job with the Major League club. "Marte is still a guy we think has a bright future," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We're going to do everything we can to find a way to keep him around. If it's not the best thing for the team at some point, we'll make a decision otherwise." The decision last year was to give Marte the starting job at third base. The Indians had been happy with his defense in the final two months of '06, after he supplanted Aaron Boone, and they thought he could improve enough offensively in a low-pressure spot of the batting order to keep that job. Three weeks into the '07 season, however, Marte was batting just .184, and he strained his hamstring. By the time he was ready to come off the disabled list, Casey Blake had a firm grip on the third-base duties, and Marte was sent back to Triple-A for the third straight year. While at Buffalo, Marte batted .267 with 13 doubles, 16 homers and 60 RBIs. He was on an upswing at the end of the year, hitting in each of his last 13 games and batting .391 with three homers and 12 RBIs in that span. The Indians have no plans to move Blake out of his starting spot at the outset of '08, so it's difficult to discern where Marte, who was the key acquisition in the January 2006 trade that sent Coco Crisp to Boston, will fit in. He might be in line for a reserve role, though the Indians wouldn't keep him on the roster merely to back up Blake. "If he's on our ballclub, he's going to have to be able to play some first base, too," manager Eric Wedge said. "That comes with the territory." When Marte comes to camp, Wedge would like to see him looking a bit more fit. Marte is listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, though that latter number is probably understated. "I just think it's really important for Andy to come in in shape," Wedge said, "because it will help him be a better player." Skinner on the move? Indians third-base coach Joel Skinner has reportedly interviewed for the Pirates' vacant managerial job. Neal Huntington, formerly an assistant under Shapiro, took over the GM post in Pittsburgh in September, so, obviously, he's familiar with Skinner, who was the runner-up to Wedge for the Indians' post in 2002. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Friday that Skinner is one of five final candidates for the job. Skinner was the interim manager for the Indians in the second half of '02, after Charlie Manuel was relieved of his duties. Skinner went 35-41 in that second half. His father, Bob, played for the Pirates and was a member of Pittsburgh's 1960 club that won the World Series title. Here's the question... Who is the Indians' all-time leader in postseason hits? Crowe flies: Outfielder Trevor Crowe, one of the Indians' more highly regarded prospects, was batting just .192 at Double-A Akron on June 25. But he hit .323 from June 26 on to finish the season with a .259 average. Crowe is trying to take that roll into the Arizona Fall League, where he is participating for the second straight year. Through 10 games with the Surprise Rafters, he was batting .289 (11-for-38) with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. In other Minor League news, Topps named Akron first baseman Jordan Brown the Eastern League's Player of the Year. Brown was already named the MVP of the league and the Rookie of the Year -- the first player to capture both awards in the same season since the Phillies' Ryan Howard. Brown batted .333 with 11 homers and 76 RBIs for the Aeros. More awards: They've already been named the best at their craft by their peers. Now, they're getting some online love, as well. Wedge and ace left-hander C.C. Sabathia were both recognized in the Internet Baseball Awards this week. Wedge, of course, was named the American League's Manager of the Year, just as he was by his managerial peers in The Sporting News' balloting, and Sabathia was named the AL's top pitcher, just as he was by his peers in the Players Choice Awards. The Internet Baseball Awards are presented by Baseball Prospectus. Wedge and Sabathia will soon find out if the Baseball Writers' Association of America holds them in similar esteem. The Cy Young Award will be handed out on Nov. 13, while the Manager of the Year Award will be given out on Nov. 14. Home sweet home: Attendance at Jacobs Field during the regular season in '07 was 2,223,420 in 77 dates, an average of 28,876 fans per game. Even with three home games played in Milwaukee's Miller Park, the total attendance mark surpassed that of each of the previous four seasons. It was the largest attendance total at Jacobs Field since the Indians drew 2,616,940 fans in 2002. The total home attendance mark for '07, including the three home-away-from-home games, was 2,275,916 in 80 dates, an average of 28,449. The "home" game played in Seattle in the opener of a twi-night doubleheader in late September did not count toward the Tribe's attendance total, because that game only had one gate, and it went to the Mariners. And the answer is... Shortstop Omar Vizquel has the team record with 57 postseason hits.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.