GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The way Indians manager Manny Acta sees things, Matt LaPorta had a realistic shot at forcing the club's hand and earning a place on the Opening Day roster. LaPorta simply did not do enough offensively this spring.
On Tuesday, Cleveland optioned LaPorta to Triple-A Columbus, where he will get regular playing time to continue to work on his offense. The Tribe's first-base job was taken this spring with Casey Kotchman in the fold, but Acta indicated that LaPorta had a chance to win the vacant role in left field.
"He knew the situation coming in," Acta said on Tuesday. "The opportunity was there, especially in the outfield. You guys have seen what's going on in camp. If he would've shown up to camp and probably hit the way we feel he can hit, there was a good chance that he probably would've had a good opportunity of grabbing that job. But, unfortunately, it didn't happen."
In 14 Cactus League games this spring, the 27-year-old LaPorta hit .167 (5-for-30) with two RBIs, 11 strikeouts and one walk for Cleveland. The Tribe hoped to see more from LaPorta at the plate while considering him for either the job in left field or a role off the bench as a backup first baseman, left fielder and designated hitter.
Last season, LaPorta hit .247 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in 107 games for the Indians, who handed him the everyday job at first out of Spring Training a year ago. This past winter, Cleveland signed Kotchman to a one-year contract worth $3 million to assume LaPorta's former role at first.
The Indians are holding out hope that LaPorta can still develop into the right-handed power threat the team believed he could be for the heart of the order.
"As we've said all along," general manager Chris Antonetti said, "Matt continues to demonstrate in spurts that he has the ability to be a quality middle-of-the-order Major League hitter. The challenge for Matt is to demonstrate that consistently. Unfortunately, we did not see that consistency here in camp.
"He'll have the opportunity again to play regularly down there [at Triple-A] and get that consistency. If he does, then if and when there's that opportunity at the Major League level, hopefully Matt is prepared and ready for it."