GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- What, exactly, is Matt LaPorta? An outfielder or a first baseman? "I haven't known my whole life," LaPorta said with a laugh. "Even in college, people would ask me, and I'd just say, 'I'm a hitter.'" LaPorta, acquired in the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers and brought up to the big leagues for the first time last season, is a promising enough young hitter that the Indians are expected to find some place for him in their everyday lineup in 2010.
But now that Russell Branyan is in the fold on a one-year contract, it appears the previous plans to turn LaPorta into a full-time first baseman have been put on hold and left field will be his domain. But the Indians haven't divulged their intentions for LaPorta to anybody, LaPorta included. "Right now, the focus is on getting me back to 100 percent," LaPorta said. "We can't talk about my position until I'm 100 percent." LaPorta is now 4 1/2 months removed from a pair of surgeries last October. Doctors cleaned out his left hip joint and repaired a sprain of the joint at the base of his left big toe. He's been rehabbing ever since, making the Tribe's Player Development Complex his winter home away from home. Cleared to resume baseball activities last week, LaPorta was a full participant Friday, as the Indians held their first full-squad workout of spring camp. "The last couple days, I've really been getting after it," LaPorta said. "I've felt great, and I'm really pleased with where I'm at. I've reached one level of the ladder, and I feel great." Although nothing is set in stone when it comes to rehab, the tentative date for LaPorta to join his teammates in Cactus League games is March 10. That's just five days after the Tribe's exhibition opener against the Reds, so he's currently not far behind at all and appears on track to be ready by Opening Day. The right-handed-hitting LaPorta, who can spell Travis Hafner at the DH spot, if need be, is also on track to be a full-time player, no matter what position he happens to occupy on a given day. "He's going to get 500 at-bats, if he's healthy," manager Manny Acta said. "That's what's important here."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.