November 21, 2014

Medina
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Indians: Don’t be fooled by LaPorta — again

I know what you’re thinking, but don’t even go there.

With first baseman Casey Kotchman struggling mightily at the plate — .148 in 15 games through Friday — and Matt LaPorta tearing it up at Triple-A Columbus — .371 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 18 games through Friday — you’re thinking, “Hey, why not call up LaPorta and see what he can do.”

Really?

Haven’t we seen that dog and pony show already?

LaPorta, 27, has been fool’s gold since arriving as the key cog in the CC Sabathia trade with Milwaukee in 2008. He racks up big numbers in the minors, but it doesn’t translate to the big leagues, where he has posted a .238 batting average, 30 home runs and 115 RBIs in 269 games from 2009-11.

It’s not like LaPorta hasn’t had the opportunity to prove his worth for the Indians. He’s logged close to 1,000 at-bats on the big league level and has been handed the starting job at first the past two seasons, losing it on both occasions with his usual lack of offensive production.

Defensively, LaPorta can match up with few big league first baseman, let alone one of the best in the business in Kotchman, who owns the best fielding percentage of anyone to ever play the position.

So now LaPorta is hitting at the Triple-A level again. Big deal.

Where was that this spring?

Let’s not forget that the projected power hitter had two opportunities to make the club out of training camp, first as the starting left fielder, then again as an extra outfielder.

If he would have hit, he would have made the team in some capacity. Manager Manny Acta said as much.

Instead, LaPorta squandered another big league opportunity, batting .167 without a home run and just two RBIs in 14 games and was beat out for one of the final position player spots on the Opening Day roster by unheralded Aaron Cunningham.

Could LaPorta change his career course and produce in the majors if he gets a chance sometime this year? Sure. Plenty of players are late bloomers. Just don’t be fooled into believing that because LaPorta is hitting in the minors, he can help the Indians now.

We’ve seen that before.

 

Damon diary

The Indians are still playing the waiting game with veteran outfielder Johnny Damon, who remains in Goodyear, Ariz., playing in extended spring training games — after being signed to a one-year contract April 17.

Damon, 38, said he could be ready in a week and the Indians predicted two weeks, but it looks as though neither will be on the money.

The Indians say Damon is comfortable in Arizona. That’s great, but Cleveland isn’t paying him $1.25 million plus incentives to get some sun and hang out in the mountains.

It’s time to see how he feels at Triple-A Columbus.

 

Rising star

Acta is predicting big things for young second baseman Jason Kipnis, who had raised his average to .257 through Friday after a slow start to the season. He entered Saturday with 10 hits over his last 22 at-bats (six games).

“I like him everywhere (in the batting order),” Acta said. “I just think he’s going to be a very good player. I think he can hit. He’s got pretty good power for a guy his size. He can run. He can juice balls all over the field.”

 

Walking tall

Despite playing in fewer games than anyone in baseball through Friday, the Indians led the majors with 97 walks — 18 more than the next closest team (Mets). The total is the second-highest ever by a Cleveland team over the first 18 games, behind the 108 walks drawn in 1955.

Carlos Santana had walked an American League-leading 18 times through Friday, while Travis Hafner was right behind with 17. Shelley Duncan (13) and Shin-Soo Choo (10) were also in double digits.

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.