<
>

Marte, Merloni sent to Triple-A

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Top prospect Andy Marte and veteran utility infielder Lou Merloni were among six players either optioned or reassigned Friday by the Cleveland Indians from their spring training camp.

The Indians obtained Marte from Boston on Jan. 27 in the six-player trade that sent outfielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox.

The 22-year-old third baseman batted .359 this spring with six doubles and nine RBI, but Cleveland intends to begin the regular
season with veteran Aaron Boone at third base. Marte, outfielder
Franklin Gutierrez and catcher/first baseman Ryan Garko were
optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

Merloni, infielder Jose Flores and right-hander Ben Howard were reassigned to the team's minor league camp. Howard had a 1.93 ERA
in six spring training appearances and Flores batted .160 in 13
games.

Merloni, 34, missed nearly all of the 2005 season with torn ligaments in his right ankle. He was hit on the right hand by a
pitch in Cleveland's first spring training game and batted .174 in
16 games.

Merloni has a career .272 average and has played every position but catcher. The Framingham, Mass., native spent his first 11 professional seasons in the Boston organization.

The Indians began converting Garko to first base last season. He played there almost exclusively this spring, hitting .263. Gutierrez batted .194.

The moves leave the Indians with 32 players in camp.