Huffman Gets New First Priority For Indians





CLEVELAND If Chad Huffman wants a shot to play for the Indians in the majors next season, he'll likely have to switch gloves.

After six pro seasons primarily as an outfielder, Huffman spent the Arizona Fall League working at first base. With the Tribe unsure who will man first base in the major leagues in 2012 given Matt LaPorta's struggles, Huffman hopes to be a viable option.

At 26, and having batted .246/.351/.415 at Triple-A Columbus last season, the 6-foot-1, righthanded-hitting Huffman was not an obvious choice for the prospect-laden AFL. But a background of versatility in college—he played both baseball and football at Texas Christian—probably worked in his favor.

"Chad finished the year on a very strong note—he had over a 1.000 OPS in the month of August," assistant farm director Carter Hawkins said. "We felt like the AFL presented an opportunity for him to continue that success and give him a chance to increase his positional versatility by gaining comfort at first base."

The Padres, who drafted Huffman in the second round in 2006, waived him before the start of the 2010, and he was claimed by the Yankees. He made his major league debut on June 13, replacing the injured Marcus Thames, and got his first career hit in his first big league at-bat. Two weeks later, his bases-loaded, two-run single in the ninth helped the Yankees rally for a win over the Dodgers.

But overall Huffman batted .167 in nine big league games, so he was designated for assignment on Sept. 15. The Tribe claimed him on waivers and optioned him to Columbus.

"We still feel like Chad has the potential to have an impact in Cleveland," Hawkins said. "He works and plays as hard as anyone we have. Like last year, Chad will have the chance to compete for a job on the major league team. Adding more versatility to his game defensively will certainly help increase his opportunities, whether that is out of spring training or in-season."

SMOKE SIGNALS

• Catcher Michel Hernandez, 33, signed a minor league deal with the Indians with an invitation to major league spring training.

• Tribe scouts were in the Dominican Republic to watch Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes work out. Cespedes is not a free agent yet but is expected to be this offseason.