CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta made it clear that first baseman Matt LaPorta was not demoted to Triple-A Columbus because of his performance, but the Indians' manager was quick to note that LaPorta has underperformed this season.
"Expectations have always been very high for him," Acta said prior to a 6-2 win over the A's on Tuesday. "So far, it's been a challenge for him."
Prior to Tuesday's game against the A's, the Indians optioned LaPorta to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for right-hander Jeanmar Gomez. Per Major League guidelines, LaPorta must remain in the Minors for a minimum of 10 days before he can be summoned back to the Majors. An exception can be made if another player lands on the disabled list.
The wide range of injuries that have ravaged Cleveland's roster played a role in LaPorta's trip to Columbus. With a depleted infield (Jason Kipnis is on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring issue) and outfield (Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo are all dealing with health woes), LaPorta became vulnerable.
Gomez gave the Indians an immediate boost against Oakland, tossing six innings and allowing only an unearned run. He was recalled because two members of the club's rotation -- Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco are on the 15-day DL with right elbow ailments -- and the Tribe has alternative options for first base in Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan and Jack Hannahan. For now, Santana will get the bulk of the time at first.
"The move was not made based on Matt's year," Acta emphasized. "It was pretty much strictly [based on that] we can't send any infielders down with the situation we're in right now. We can't send any outfielders down with the situation we're in right now. We could not send a pitcher down."
That said, LaPorta's offensive struggles made him a candidate for being sent down.
Through 97 games for the Tribe this year, LaPorta has hit .238 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. Entering the season, Cleveland hoped he would continue to develop into the right-handed power hitter that the lineup sorely needs. That has been the hope since the Indians acquired LaPorta from Milwaukee as part of the trade for CC Sabathia in 2008.
"A lot of inconsistency," said Acta, referring to LaPorta's showing this season. "He still shows the flashes of the player that we are envisioning him to be, but it's very inconsistent. He still needs some work on his plate discipline. He's a guy who's projected to be a walks, power guy, and that's still not there.
"He's made some progress. But the expectations, obviously, on a guy like him are higher than that. Not because of the trade or anything like that, but being a high pick and a guy who cruised through the Minor Leagues."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.