And once he became a regular in the Triple-A Columbus lineup near the end of April, Marte didn't stop hitting. He was leading the International League in OPS (.963) and slugging percentage (.593), was second in RBIs (66), tied for second in homers (18) and extra-base hits (43) and third in batting average (.327). He hit .400 with three doubles, seven homers and 15 RBIs over his last 15 games with the Clippers.
That output, combined with Marte's stellar defensive play, made the Indians think twice about the guy they had written off just four months ago. And now that he's back on the big league roster, Marte has yet another chance to prove he belongs at this level.
"Here I am," he said Tuesday, before getting the start at first base against the Angels. "I want to stay here."
Marte, who figures to get the bulk of his playing time at first base, might be back in the lineup on Wednesday, when the Indians wrap up a successful road trip with the finale of a three-game set at Angel Stadium. But Marte's future in this organization still looks murky. The Indians aren't going to move Jhonny Peralta, who has heated up in the second half, from third base, and Victor Martinez and top prospect Matt LaPorta are more likely to be the future fixtures at first than Marte is.
Still, as the 25-year-old Marte has already proven this year, one can never be sure what the future has in store. Perhaps he'll figure into the Indians' plans, after all, or maybe he'll use this new opportunity to showcase himself for other clubs.
The Indians believe Marte's Triple-A success will translate at this level. To what degree remains to be seen. If Marte takes the approach he put together at Columbus into the Majors and remain productive, he'll emerge as the middle-of-the-order, corner-infield bat the Indians proclaimed him to be when they acquired him in the 2006 trade that sent Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. If not, well, it's back to square one.
Even in the worst-case scenario, the Indians remain enamored with Marte's defensive skills at third.
"His defense is ridiculous," farm director Ross Atkins said. "And now, with the confidence he has, it's even better."
But Marte, of course, won't be playing much third here. And this stint is all about seeing what he can contribute at the plate.
Marte said he straightened up his stance, raised his hands and shortened his swing while working with hitting coach Jon Nunnally at Columbus.
"If I keep doing what I was doing down there," he said, "it's good."
CLE: LHP Aaron Laffey (4-2, 3.71 ERA)
Laffey is coming off one of his career-best outings, as he found a groove against the Mariners and stayed in it. He allowed just three hits and no runs in seven innings. He threw 26 pitches in the first before settling down and retiring 17 of the final 18 batters he faced. He struck out a season-high seven. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.
LAA: RHP John Lackey (6-4, 4.22 ERA)
Coming off a three-hit shutout of the Athletics in Oakland, Lackey was almost as good in yielding four hits across 7 2/3 innings of a victory over the Twins at home on Friday night. Joe Mauer's two homers were Lackey's only missteps as he kept pounding fastballs and curveballs in good locations, walking two and striking out three. Lackey has struck out 52 hitters in his past 58 1/3 innings across eight starts, going 5-2. He's 5-5 in 12 career starts against the Indians with a 3.49 ERA.
Grady Sizemore was out of the lineup for the second straight game on Tuesday. Sizemore got sick on the Tribe's flight from Seattle on Sunday night and has lost about seven pounds. But he was feeling a bit better on Tuesday and was available off the bench. He might be in Wednesday's lineup. ... The Indians faced a right-handed starter for the first time in 10 games Tuesday. The Tribe is now 15-14 against left-handed starters. ... The Indians will have a one-day sale from 6 a.m. to midnight ET on Friday, featuring special discounted offers covering "the full array of Indians baseball product offerings." What's more, there will be no online fees for the purchase of Indians tickets and hosted events. Visit www.indians.com/onedaysale
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Official game notes
Friday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 3-7, 5.15) vs. Tigers (Edwin Jackson, 7-5, 2.59), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 7-9, 3.14) vs. Tigers (Rick Porcello, 9-7, 4.62), 7:05 p.m. ET