CLEVELAND: It was inevitable that the question would come up.
Luis Valbuena is batting .182 with two home runs, seven RBI and a .308 on-base percentage, pathetic numbers for an everyday player, even a middle infielder. Valbuena has upheld his end of the bargain as a defensive second baseman, but how long will he have a job if his hitting doesn't improve?
""He's struggling offensively,'' manager Manny Acta said this afternoon. ""He's had a couple of key hits, and he's played well defensively. We will continue to give him a chance. But it's up to him whether he takes advantage of the opportunity.''
So for now, Valbuena will be the regular at second base, but Acta made it clear that the second-year infielder cannot remain a viable everyday player indefinitely unless he generates more offense. As a rookie last year, he was called up from Triple-A on May 2 and started slowly. But from July 1 through the end of the schedule he batted .281 with six homers and 21 RBI in 65 games.
Consequently, his early-season troubles don't necessarily mean he won't catch fire eventually. But what if he doesn't? Acta could hand the job over to veteran Mark Grudzielanek, but more likely Triple-A second baseman Jason Donald would be summoned from Columbus.
Donald was acquired from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal and currently is tearing up International League pitching, batting .337 with eight doubles, two home runs, 15 RBI and .454 on-base percentage inh 24 games.