CLEVELAND — Matt LaPorta, the key cog in the CC Sabathia trade, has largely been a disappointment since joining the Indians in 2008 — until now. The Indians are finally getting some return from the projected star, who has belted home runs in three straight games, becoming the only Cleveland player to accomplish the feat this season in a 6-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus five games ago after the Russell Branyan trade to Seattle, LaPorta, who opened the season with the Indians but was demoted after batting just .218 with one homer and seven RBIs in 35 games, has been a different player.
What’s his secret?
“My secret?” said LaPorta. “Ask God. He’s got the secrets.”
LaPorta did little to impress over two extended stints with the Indians the past two seasons, but he’s made an immediate impact this time around.
“It’s fun to watch him,” said starting pitcher Justin Masterson. “He’s come up and made his presence known, which is pretty cool.”
“He’s attacking the ball a little bit more,” Acta said of LaPorta, who hit .362 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 18 games for Columbus prior to his promotion. “It helps that he went down there and had success. Success breeds confidence in everyone. It also helps that he knows he’s going to see his name on the lineup card every day, but for the most part, it was just going down and building confidence.” With Branyan at first base, LaPorta received sporadic playing time. Now that Branyan is out of the way, the at-bats are expected to be there on a regular basis.
“It definitely helps me relax a little bit more, but you still have to go out and produce,” LaPorta said.
That’s what LaPorta is finally doing.
Closer in waiting
The Indians are touting reliever Chris Perez as a dark horse All-Star candidate.
After a shaky start to the season, the right-hander has his ERA down to 2.90, while limiting opposing hitters to a .217 batting average in 32 appearances (31 innings).
Perez, who is expected to assume the closer role from Kerry Wood next season, has converted seven of 10 save opportunities, while filling in for Wood. That’s one less save than Wood has.
The Indians complete their seven-game homestand with a three-game series against Oakland that begins tonight at 7:05.
Mitch Talbot (8-6, 3.88 ERA) opens the set, opposing LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.74), while Jake Westbrook (5-4, 4.69) goes Saturday (7:05 p.m.) against LHP Dallas Braden (4-7, 3.83).
Fausto Carmona (7-6, 3.68) will pitch the series finale Sunday (1:05 p.m.), while the A’s counter with RHP Vin Mazzaro (3-2, 4.25).
- Left fielder Michael Brantley and first baseman Jordan Brown had three hits each Wednesday in Columbus’ 7-2 victory over Indianapolis. Brown drove in four runs. Carlos Carrasco got the win, allowing two runs on five hits and five walks (six strikeouts) over five innings.
- ◾Right-hander Alex White got the win in Double-A Akron’s 8-6 victory over Richmond on Wednesday, allowing just one earned run on five hits over 6 1 / 3 innings. White, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick (15th overall) last year, is 3-4 with a 1.72 ERA in eight starts for the Aeros.
- ◾Class A Lake County first baseman Jeremie Tice hit a pair of homers and drove in five runs in the Captains’ 5-3 victory over Great Lakes on Wednesday. Tice, a sixth-round draft pick in 2008, entered Thursday batting .287 with a team-leading nine homers and 51 RBIs in 64 games.
- Though he entered the game with a five-run lead in the ninth, reliever Frank Herrmann was able to notch the first save of his career.
- ◾A scoring change from Wednesday night gave Austin Kearns a single on a play that was originally ruled an error on Toronto third baseman John McDonald in the seventh inning.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.
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