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Indians Add Orlando Cabrera To Crowded Infield

I just spent a few minutes with Indians GM Chris Antonetti, talking about what the addition of Orlando Cabrera means for Cleveland's infield.

Hey, it's February! Everything matters! After the jump, everything you want to know (and more!) ...

Earlier today, Jeff Sullivan wrote,

The Indians already have Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Donald, and Luis Valbuena manning the middle infield, but all three of those young players struggled in 2010, so while Orlando Cabrera may just be coming in as depth, there's a chance he could push his way towards being a regular at short or second base.

According to Antonetti, "Asdrubal Cabrera is our shorstop."

The Indians have always been intrigued by Cabrera's defensive skills. Well, maybe not intrigued as much as desperate; they moved him from second base to shortstop in the middle of the 2009 season when third baseman Mark DeRosa was traded and Jhonny Peralta went from shortstop to third. Granted, this wasn't a big stretch for Cabrera, who had mostly played shortstop in the minors.

Unfortunately, Cabrera's return to shortstop hasn't gone well, as his numbers there have been uniformly awful. Fortunately, he's hit well enough to keep his job, but eventually something probably has to give.

Probably not this season, though. The Indians seem committed to giving him at least one more shot, and -- yes, friends -- according to Antonetti, Cabrera has already reported to camp "in the best shape of his life."*

* Actually, that's not exactly what Antonetti said. Antonetti actually said Cabrera's "the leanest he's ever reported," but that isn't as funny. Same thing, anyway. We're definitely adding this one to the case files.

So with shortstop settled, where does that leave those other three guys? Ideally, Luis Valbuena wins the job at second base this spring and Jason Donald at third.

So what of 36-year-old Orlando Cabrera? "At worst," Antonetti says, "he'll be a utility guy for us." A utility guy, I will add, who can still play a pretty good shortstop and fill in just about anywhere else, which might matter with a starting rotation loaded with ground-ball pitchers.

Leaving aside Cabrera (who is who he is), you really can look at Cleveland's infield and dream a little. Donald was a rookie last season, and might thrive at a new position. Asdrubal might stay in shape, track down more ground balls, and keep hitting decently enough. Valbuena, who's been terrible in the majors, might rediscover the skills that gave him a .354 on-base percentage and some decent pop in the minors. Oh, and while we're at it, over at first base there's Matt LaPorta, the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade who's struggled so badly since joining the Tribe.

All four of those guys are still on the right side of 27, and all figure to play better in 2011 than in 2010.

And if not? Maybe Orlando Cabrera and Jayson Nix will save the season.