CLEVELAND (AP) - Manager Manny Acta said the Cleveland Indians' demotion of first baseman Matt LaPorta to the minors Tuesday is a case of roster numbers.
LaPorta's mediocre production numbers didn't help.
Batting .238 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 97 games, LaPorta was optioned to Triple-A Columbus when the Indians recalled right-hander Jeanmar Gomez to start the second game of a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
"With all of the injuries, first base is the only place where we have some depth," Acta said. "We have (catcher) Carlos Santana, (outfielder) Shelley Duncan and (third baseman) Jack Hannahan who can play first."
Cleveland has six players on the disabled list and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is with the team, but unavailable because of a sore left side. Outfielder Grady Sizemore, out since July 18 with a sore knee and recovering from abdominal surgery, will start a rehab assignment Wednesday at Double-A Akron.
"We're in a very tough spot here," Acta said as the short-handed Indians try to gain ground in the AL Central race.
Despite all the injuries, Cleveland began play 5 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit.
The Indians have done it without the power production anticipated from LaPorta. He was the key part of the blockbuster trade that sent Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in July 2008, but has yet to live up to lofty expectations.
"He has made progress, but expectations for a guy like him are high," Acta said. "That' not because of the trade, but because of being a high draft pick (No. 7 overall by Milwaukee in 2007) and the way he cruised through the minors."
LaPorta hit .299 with 17 homers in 93 games at Columbus in 2009 to earn a call to Cleveland, but he batted only .254 with seven homers in 52 games. He opened 2010 at Triple-A and batted .362 with five homers in 18 games, but in 110 games for the Indians, hit only .221 with 12 homers.
"He's had a lot of inconsistency, but shows flashes of what we anticipated," Acta said. "He needs work on plate discipline. He's projected as a walks, power guy and it is still not there.
"He will get regular at-bats for 10 days."
LaPorta could stay with the Clippers as they participate in the Triple-A playoffs, then rejoin the Indians.
Others acquired by Cleveland for Sabathia were outfielder Michael Brantley, currently on the 60-day disabled list with a wrist injury, left-hander Zach Jackson and minor-league right-hander Rob Bryson.
Gomez is 0-2 with a 5.70 ERA in five games over two stints earlier this year with Cleveland.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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