LaPorta in a battle for bench role

LaPorta in a battle for bench role

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The chances of first baseman Matt LaPorta making the Indians' Opening Day roster appear slim, but manager Manny Acta is not ready to rule anything out as Spring Training begins for the ballclub.

On Wednesday, Acta noted that LaPorta is in the mix for a bench job as a backup first baseman, left fielder and designated hitter. LaPorta was Cleveland's primary first baseman for the past two seasons, but the team signed veteran Casey Kotchman over the winter to assume that role.

"Matty comes here to compete for that [bench] spot at first base," Acta said. "He's coming into Spring Training in a good spot attitude-wise. He understands the situation and he's accepting the challenge. He has to come in and obviously show that he has improved the quality of his at-bats."

LaPorta's primary competition for that backup job is Shelley Duncan, who also hits right-handed and can play first, left field and DH. One difference between the two players is Duncan is out of Minor League options and LaPorta has one option remaining. That means LaPorta can be sent to Triple-A Columbus without first needing to clear waivers.

Last year, LaPorta hit .247 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 107 games for the Indians. In 2010, the first baseman labored through an injury-hindered campaign to the tune of a .221 average across 110 games. LaPorta was a key component of the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

"None of us have given up on Matt," Acta said. "At any given time, Matt can turn it up and become a menace at the plate."