CLEVELAND -- Ryan Garko was as surprised as anybody to hear he'll be giving the outfield a try during Spring Training. During an "Indians Town Hall" meeting at Solon High School last week, manager Eric Wedge told the crowd Garko and second baseman Josh Barfield would both see some time in the outfield this spring to determine if they can provide depth at the corner spots this season. When this information was reported by MLB.com last week, Garko received a text from a friend informing him of the development. "I haven't talked to Eric about it yet, but I did hear about it," Garko said Monday. "I'm all for it."
Garko knows his playing time could be harder to come by this season, because Victor Martinez is expected to get more starts at first base as Kelly Shoppach gets more playing time than the average backup catcher. Wedge said he will most likely pair Shoppach with Cliff Lee when the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner gets the ball, and Martinez will probably catch Fausto Carmona. Beyond that, it remains to be seen how Wedge divides the time. The ability to play the outfield would benefit Garko, from a playing-time standpoint. "Anything that allows [Wedge] to mix and match a little more and gives him opportunities to put the best lineup out there is good," Garko said. "It's good to be versatile in this game." But can Garko, one of the slowest members of the team, successfully make the transition? The answer will be revealed under the Arizona sun. "I've talked to other guys who have moved from first base to the outfield," he said. "It doesn't scare me. Nobody says it's any more difficult than the infield. You have more time to react. Anything he asks us to do, you have to go and do it." Garko is the first to acknowledge his '08 season, in which he hit .273 with 14 homers and 90 RBIs, was inconsistent, and he's hungry to improve and maintain a regular presence in the lineup. He has been a regular at the Indians' new facility in Goodyear, Ariz., this winter. "I've worked hard this offseason, and I'm really trying to get myself in good shape," he said. "I think I'm moving around a little better. I've definitely put the work in." And soon he'll have a new position to work on.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.