CLEVELAND: The two players who have logged the most time in left field for the Indians are gone.
Shelley Duncan was designated for assignment Wednesday, less than a month after Johnny Damon was jettisoned from the roster.
“It was tough to get rid of a guy like Shelley,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s a good teammate who gives you all he has. But there will be a couple of September call-ups coming, and there aren’t going to be many at-bats left for Duncan. He also is not in our plans for next year, but this is never a happy time.”
Acta was not merely mouthing the usual managerial rhetoric when a player is cut. Despite being a career bench player, Duncan became a clubhouse leader whose good sense and baseball wisdom was something to be emulated by his teammates.
That he has never been able to make the jump from reserve to everyday player isn’t because of a lack of effort.
When Grady Sizemore went down with a knee injury in spring training, Michael Brantley was moved from left to center field and a competition broke out among several lifetime bench players for the everyday job in left.
Duncan opened the season in left and stayed there through April and much of May.
Damon was signed on April 17 and worked out at the Tribe’s spring training complex in Arizona before joining the team early in May. Over time, Damon was on the field more than Duncan, though his lack of production and sub-par defense led to his release Aug. 9.
Duncan and Damon each started 52 games in left; Duncan batted .203 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 232 at-bats; Damon batted .222 with four homers and 19 RBI in 207 at-bats.
In addition to the unknown players coming from Columbus in September — probably Russ Canzler and Vinny Rottino — who will get most of the at-bats in left?
“The regular against right-handers is Zeke,” Acta said, referring to Ezequiel Carrera. He added that the newcomers from Triple-A bat from the right side.
Acta was asked if Duncan became overexposed by playing regularly.
“Everybody wants to play every day. When it comes to expectations, we’re free to expect a lot. Shelley wanted to play every day. We used him the way it felt proper. I can’t tell you that because he played too much he struggled. He wanted to play.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.