Tribe brings Duncan, Kearns into fold
Pair inked to Minor League deals with Spring Training invites
CLEVELAND -- Still quiet on the Major League free agent front, the Indians continue to add potential options to their Spring Training mix through Minor League deals.
On Tuesday, those deals went to a pair of position players, infielder/outfielder Shelley Duncan and outfielder Austin Kearns. Both were given invites to big league camp.Duncan, 30, is coming off International League MVP honors in 2009, while a member of the Yankees' organization. He batted .277 with 85 runs, 30 doubles, a league-record 30 homers and 99 RBIs in 123 games for Triple-A Scranton. He ranked second in the league in slugging percentage (.546), tied for 10th in doubles and was third in OPS (.916). He also appeared in 11 games for the Yankees in September, going 3-for-15 at the plate. With Matt LaPorta working his way back from offseason hip and toe surgeries, the Indians hope to have some insurance in the corner outfield and at first base. Duncan could potentially provide it. Andy Marte and Jordan Brown will also be in the mix to try to win a job. "We see [Duncan] as a guy that has a good track record of hitting left-handed pitching and being productive," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He has defensive versatility that fits well within our needs. He's certainly a guy that could come in and compete for that job." In 905 career Minor League games, Duncan owns a .258 average with 201 doubles, 170 homers and 599 RBIs. He played 68 games for the Yankees from 2007-09, batting .219 (32-for-146) with eight homers and 24 RBIs. Duncan was a second-round pick out of Arizona in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. He is the son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and the brother of free-agent outfielder Chris Duncan. Kearns, 29, could compete to be the Tribe's fourth outfielder. Or if the club determines rookie Michael Brantley could use a bit more Triple-A seasoning, Kearns could be in the mix to compete for a more prominent role as a regular in left. New Tribe manager Manny Acta knows Kearns well, having worked with him the past three years in Washington. Kearns has played in 542 Major League games with the Reds and Nationals since 2002. His 2009 season with the Nationals was cut short in August because of a right thumb injury. He appeared in 80 games for Washington before the injury, batting .195 with three homers and 17 RBIs. "[Kearns is] a plus defender in the outfield," Shapiro said. "He's a guy who has had some recent struggles, but Manny was very familiar with him. Due to his age and athleticism, the upside and the potential still exists for him to be a productive Major League player. As a right-handed-hitting outfielder, he complements our existing outfielders well on the corners. I'd expect him to be a guy that competes for a spot on the Major League team." The seventh overall pick in the 1998 Draft, Kearns owns a career Major League average of .256 with 155 doubles, 105 homers and 422 RBIs. The Indians have now invited eight players to Spring Training camp, including pitchers Jason Grilli, Saul Rivera, Mike Gosling and Anthony Reyes and infielders Luis Rodriguez and Brian Buscher.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.