Marte hungry for a real opportunity

Marte hungry for a real opportunity

CLEVELAND -- Who says Andy Marte doesn't have a role on the Indians?

You can find him taking the field shortly before most home games. He's usually the one squatting at home plate to catch the ceremonial first pitch. He might even be out there before Saturday's game against the Reds, when the Tribe resumes the intrastate, Interleague rivalry known as the Ohio Cup.

OK, so it's not a glamorous position. But it's better than nothing. And as anyone who has followed the Indians this season knows, Marte's playing time has been downright next to nothing.

The Indians are 80 games into their schedule, and Marte, who has been around since Opening Day, has appeared in 24 of them. He's started just 15 times. Twice this season, manager Eric Wedge has said he intends to give Marte more playing time. Each time, Marte received two consecutive starts before going back to the bench.

"I'm not playing much," Marte said. "It's tough to get used to it."

The Indians have gotten used to playing with a roster of, essentially, 24 men, because Marte has been little more than a hanger-on in 2008. And the few times he has been in the lineup, he hasn't made an impact. He's batting .137 (7-for-51), and his next RBI will be his first.

If not for the onslaught of injuries the Indians have endured in recent months, it's possible Marte would have been designated for assignment by now. Instead, his assignment is to sit. And wait.

He can't help but wonder if a better opportunity might be awaiting elsewhere.

"I'm still young," said the 24-year-old Marte. "All I need is playing time. If not here, maybe somewhere else. But I'd like to stay here. I like this organization and the way they've treated me. I like it here, but I've got to think about my career."

The Indians' argument for keeping Marte around this season was that he is out of Minor League options and would have to pass through waivers unclaimed to be sent back to Triple-A Buffalo. But given his struggles when he has played this year, it's questionable whether he'd be claimed at all.

With their immediate third-base future undecided, the Indians were hoping Marte would prove he can man the hot corner permanently. That has hardly been the case, though it's not as if he's had much opportunity to prove anything.

"Everything is speeded up when you play [after sitting for long stretches]," he said. "Facing the pitcher is harder. But I try to prepare myself to be ready."

If nothing else, he's mastered the art of catching ceremonial first pitches.

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Paul Byrd (3-8, 5.21 ERA)
Byrd gave up four runs before he recorded an out in his start against the Dodgers on Sunday, and he ended up taking the loss. Still, the outing felt like a victory of sorts for him, because he righted himself after those first-inning foibles. In all, he gave up just the four runs on seven hits with no walks and a strikeout in seven innings by finding confidence in his curveball, particularly against left-handers. Byrd, who is 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 14 career starts against the Reds, hopes the Dodgers outing is a sign that he's recovered from the two rough starts that preceded it.

CIN: RHP Johnny Cueto (5-8, 5.01 ERA)
Cueto threw five innings of one-run ball against the Yankees on Sunday, but a lack of run support from the Reds' offense gave him the loss. It was a solid performance from the right-hander, who struck out seven with no walks. Cueto gave up just four hits, but long at-bats led to a high pitch count, and he did not return to the game after a rain delay, leaving with a total of 75 throws. It marked the fourth straight loss for the righty.

Tidbits
Grady Sizemore's fifth-inning home run Friday was the Indians' first since last Saturday, when pitcher C.C. Sabathia blasted his second career homer in third inning against the Dodgers. ... The Indians have already used 38 players this year. They used 41 all of last season. ... Tribe starters have gone at least five innings in 58 of their last 65 games. ... With his win Thursday, Cliff Lee became the fourth Indians pitcher in franchise history to start a season 11-1 or better. ... Lee and Sabathia, after each striking out more than 10 in their respective starts Thursday and Friday, became the first Tribe duo to do so in back-to-back games since Gaylord Perry and Dick Tidrow did it in 1972. ... Sizemore currently leads the Tribe in on-base and slugging percentage, OPS, games, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, triples, homers, walks, steals and extra-base hits.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• STO-HD

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Sunday: Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 4-7, 6.52) at Indians (Aaron Laffey, 4-4, 2.83), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 0-3, 5.97) at White Sox (Gavin Floyd, 8-4, 3.39), 8:11 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 11-1, 2.34) at White Sox (John Danks, 5-4, 2.62), 8:11 p.m. ET

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.