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Indians invite LaHair to big league camp

After one season in Japan, role player to battle for bench spot

Indians invite LaHair to big league camp

CLEVELAND -- For a period of four months two seasons ago, Bryan LaHair flashed both his power and potential to earn a spot on the National League All-Star team. LaHair subsequently slid nearly as fast as he had soared.

The Indians are now giving LaHair a chance to regain his footing in the big leagues.

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On Wednesday, Cleveland announced that it has signed LaHair to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to attend Spring Training. The 31-year-old first baseman will compete for at-bats as a designated hitter and could work his way into the mix as a role player off the bench.

As the roster currently stands, LaHair would serve as depth at first base, the corner-outfield spots and DH. Utility men Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn are virtual locks for bench jobs, while Jason Giambi, Jose Ramirez, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Nyjer Morgan, David Adams, David Cooper and LaHair will be among the players vying for the remaining reserve roles.

With LaHair in the fold, Cleveland has 23 non-roster invitees slated to be in camp this spring.

LaHair's value can be found when examining his platoon splits and experience as a pinch-hitter. The left-handed hitter has hit .289 (.835 OPS) in 503 career plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, compared to just a .098 (.380 OPS) mark in 96 plate appearances against lefties. In 43 career pinch-hit at-bats, LaHair has a .326 average to go with a .914 OPS.

In parts of three Major League seasons -- spent with the Mariners (2008) and Cubs (2011-12) -- LaHair posted a .260/.334/.430 slash line in 195 games. He owns a .295 average and .865 OPS in 970 career Minor League games. Last season, LaHair played for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, hitting .230 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs in 11 games in Japan.

During LaHair's All-Star season in 2012, he stormed out of the gates, hitting .286 with 14 homers, 30 RBIs and an .883 OPS in 74 games in the first half for the Cubs. Following the All-Star break, though, LaHair hit just .202 with two homers, 10 RBIs and a .572 OPS in 56 games. The Cubs released LaHair on Nov. 21, 2012, and he signed to play in Japan one day later.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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