INDIANS Marte still hearing of Crisp controversy
It doesn't help that he's expected to spend this season in Triple-A Buffalo.
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) -- When Andy Marte reported to the Cleveland Indians spring training camp, he had no idea he was in the middle of a controversy.
Marte had nothing to do with starting it, but his acquisition from Boston in a deal that sent popular outfielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox on January 27 wasn't well received by Indians fans, who think the trade marks a significant step backward for the 2006 season.
The mood wasn't helped by the fact that, even though Marte is rated as one of the top prospects in baseball, he's expected to spend most of the season at Triple-A Buffalo.
Asked about the controversy, Marte smiled and said, "I don't know about that. All I can do is go out and play, wherever it is."
Future third baseman
The Indians think Marte, 22, will be their third baseman for a long time, but his tenure probably won't start until 2007. Aaron Boone is signed through this season with a mutual option for '07.
"If we didn't have a third baseman, we could go with him, but he needs time at Triple-A to finish himself off," said general manager Mark Shapiro.
"They've already got a third baseman," said Marte. "I think I'm ready to play in the big leagues, but maybe another year at Triple-A will help me."
After batting .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs at Triple-A Richmond last season, Marte's name was in the news a lot in the off-season. Even though he was highly regarded by Atlanta, he was stuck behind Chipper Jones at third base. The Braves traded him to the Red Sox for shortstop Edgar Renteria and cash on December 8.
"When I heard Chipper Jones signed for three more years, I was prepared for a trade," Marte said. "It did not surprise me. I thought it might be to Tampa Bay because I heard they were interested, but it was Boston. The Red Sox called me and said, 'We traded for you because we want you,' but that didn't happen."
Red Sox wanted Crisp
The Indians-Red Sox trade was rumored a week before it was finally announced. Boston wanted Crisp to replace Johnny Damon in center field.
While Marte was the key player for the Indians, the Indians wanted reliever Guillermo Mota, but their concerns about the condition of his right elbow almost killed the deal.
The Indians finally received Marte, Mota, catcher Kelly Shoppach, $1 million and possibly a player to be named for Crisp, right-hander David Riske and catcher Josh Bard.
The uncertain nature of the deal led to a confusing week for the players.
"I saw in the paper in the Dominican Republic that said I was traded and it already happened," Marte said. "I called my agent and asked him and he said no. I know it went on for a week, but I didn't keep up with it that much because I was home. I knew the Indians had talked about me so there was a chance I'd go there. They had seen me play a lot [in the minors] and they know what kind of player I am."
Standout in minor league
Marte, a right-handed hitter, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, is best known for having a power bat and a strong arm at third base. Not only has he hit 81 homers in his last four minor league seasons, he has been voted his league's best defensive third baseman each of the last four years.
Still, Marte knows there's room for improvement.
"I want to cut down on my strikeouts and go to right field more often," he said. "I also want to improve going to my backhand on defense."