McBride Handles Shift To Outfield

But Indians farmhand isn't done with catching




HONOLULU—Despite labrum surgery in the offseason that limited his playing time over the summer, the Cleveland Indians aren't quite ready to let prospect Matt McBride give up catching just yet.

The 75th overall selection of the 2006 draft has been exclusively playing left field for the North Shore Honu of Hawaii Winter Baseball. He said the Indians want him to play the outfield for two reasons: To strengthen his arm and to learn a new position.

"It makes me more versatile, being able to play more than one position," McBride said. "But I'm still working on catching. I was in instructs for about a week. Did some catching there and (played) some outfield, so I'm sort of learning a new position out here. It's helping my arm build strength."

The native of Bethlehem, Pa., and product of Lehigh University said the injury was something that had built up over the years. He said he tried rehabilitation first, but the pain returned and he opted for surgery.

"We decided it was time to get it fixed so I could put it behind me and not worry about it again," he said. "Right now, my shoulder feels great. Since I got here, this is the best I've felt since surgery, so I'm really happy with the way things are going."

After 17 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League, McBride split time between high Class A Kinston and low Class A Lake County, playing in 17 and 11 games, respectively.

"I DHed pretty much the whole time," McBride said of his summer assignments. "I caught here and there, but my main goal this year is to get healthy and right now, I'm very happy with the progress I've made. The Indians' trainers did a good job of strengthening (my shoulder) and everything. It feels very good right now."

The transition seems to be smooth for McBride. Through Oct. 13, he has played in 12 of his team's 14 games, handling 20 total chances (19 putouts, one assist) without an error.

"It's a completely different mindset compared to catching, where you're always in the game, thinking about pitches, worried about blocking balls and different things," McBride said. "Outfield, you're more worried about positioning, getting reads and jumps on balls. I'm enjoying it."

The toughest play, he said, is the liner hit directly at him.

"Sometimes, it's hard to get a read on (the liners)," McBride said. "I think I'm getting a little better at it. As an outfielder, it's definitely been a tough adjustment, having balls come right at you on a line."

Offensively, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed hitter has been one of the more productive Honu. As of Oct. 13, he was hitting .273 with five doubles, a homer and nine RBI.

"I just want drive the ball more consistently," he said. "That's something I've been working on and (has been) coming along pretty well."

Like most players in HWB, this is McBride's first trip to Hawai'i. The players are staying in apartments in Waikiki, so there are a lot of activities nearby. On their off days, the players will venture to other popular tourist spots. Last week, he and some other players went to Waimea Bay on O'ahu's North Shore.

"I was definitely excited, mostly because I hardly played at all this season," McBride said of his assignment here. "I want to get more at-bats this season so going into next season, I wouldn't have missed the whole thing. And Hawai'i's just a place not too many people get to go to. It's beautiful out here."

Coming & Going

• BeachBoys catcher Buster Posey, who was charged with five passed balls—including three in one game—in two games, was sent to instructional league to work on his receiving skills, HWB officials said. The fifth-overall pick by the Giants in June is expected to return. Nothing wrong with Posey's bat, though, as he was hitting .429 (6 for 14).

• Meanwhile, Reds first base prospect Yonder Alonso, picked two notches after Posey, joined the BeachBoys a week late because he was sent to instructional league before heading out here. "(I) worked on my defense a lot and improved my body, my strength," Alonso said of his 10-day stint at instructs. Alonso wasted little time in showing why the Reds think highly of him. He is batting .318 with two home runs and four RBI in his first week of play. He also has drawn six walks, while striking out six times. "I just want to work on every aspect of the game," Alonso said. "That's my main goal right now."