Indians seeking insurance for Peralta

Indians seeking insurance for Peralta

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Indians are somewhat stuck in the middle. The middle infield, that is.

They have a young shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, who's signed to a multiyear deal but is coming off a sophomore year steeped in struggles. His defensive range was especially troubling to the Tribe.

They also have two utility infielders -- Hector Luna and Joe Inglett -- on board, but neither one of them is a particularly strong defender at short.

So if Peralta's struggles continue, to whom does the Tribe turn?

That's precisely what general manager Mark Shapiro intends to find out. Unfortunately for Shapiro, he might have to wait until Spring Training to do so.

The Indians have already struck out in the free-agent market for infielders particularly adept at short. Their favorite option was Craig Counsell, but he turned down their three-year contract offer for a two-year deal with his hometown Brewers.

Now, Shapiro is exploring the trade route for middle-infield depth. That market, however, doesn't appear to be much more encouraging.

"I don't feel we've made any progress on trades to the point where anything is imminent," Shapiro said Tuesday. "We've had a lot of trade discussion while we've been down here -- some exploratory on the bigger trades and creative trades that have a lot more impact, and some on the smaller scale. But at the moment, I don't expect anything imminent."

The Winter Meetings, which reached a rather sleepy second day at Disney World's Swan and Dolphin Resort, might be a time of bustling trade talk for an impact player such as Manny Ramirez -- and no, the Indians do not appear to be a bona fide member of that circus -- but backup infielders don't inspire much hubbub.

Shapiro might be more likely to find the type of player he is looking for closer to the start of the season, when roster juggling leads to some last-minute wheeling and dealing.

"You have the ability to improve your bench at any point during the year, whereas there's only distinct trade seasons where you can make trades of major impact," Shapiro said. "Trades to improve the bench, you can do sporadically. Spring Training is certainly an active time to do that."

Spring Training might also be a time for Luna and Inglett to prove their value to the big-league club. Luna didn't make a dazzling impression in the two months of the season he played for the Indians after they acquired him in the July 30 Ronnie Belliard trade. The Indians want to see him drop some pounds to improve his range.

"He has the ability to help a Major League team with his versatility and with his bat," Shapiro said. "But what we're looking for from a pure middle-infield utility guy is a guy who can play shortstop well. If Hector comes in in shape and has the ability to range and move the way he has in the past, he's certainly a viable option for that role."

Inglett, another super utility player, had never played short until this past season. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season with the sole purpose of getting more grooming time at the position.

"He still needs to improve on his middle-infield defense," Shapiro said. "For your primary role to be a middle-infield utility player, your defense has to be what you rest upon. Defensively, at second and short, he still needs to improve."

As for the Indians' ongoing efforts to improve their bullpen, it was a "status quo" type of day.

"We've had good, constructive conversations," Shapiro said. "I feel we've made some progress here. I would hope the picture would be at least somewhat clearer by the time we leave here."

The Indians are one of several teams in pursuit of former Cy Young winner Eric Gagne, who has been ravaged by injuries the past two years. Agent Scott Boras, who represents Gagne, said he expects his client to sign with a club by the end of the meetings. Boras is believed to be seeking a one-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 or $7 million.

Right-handed closing candidate Joe Borowski was in Cleveland on Tuesday for his physical, the full results of which won't be available until Wednesday. The Tribe reportedly has a one-year, $4 million deal on the table for Borowski, if the report on his right shoulder meets their specifications. That deal could very well be announced Wednesday, though Shapiro won't confirm it.

"We won't comment on signings throughout the process," he said. "As we said coming in, we thought there was a distinct possibility before we left the meetings that a signing would take place. We're still hopeful of that."

It is generally assumed the signing of outfielder David Dellucci to a three-year, $11.5 million deal will be announced Wednesday. Dellucci also took his physical in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Buffalo staff complete: Torey Lovullo will return for his second season as the manager of Triple-A Buffalo.

The 41-year-old Lovullo, who played briefly for the Tribe in 1998, is a rising star in the Indians' farm system. He was a Manager of the Year and a league champion with Class A Kinston in 2004 and again with the Aeros in 2005. In '06, he guided the Bisons to a 73-68 (.518) record.

Scott Radinsky will join Lovullo's staff as the pitching coach. Radinsky, who finished up his 11-year, big-league career in 2001 with the Indians, spent '06 as the pitching coach for Akron.

Buffalo's new hitting coach is Dave Myers, late of the Seattle Mariners' organization, where he had served as a Minor League player, coach and manager since 1981 and as the Major League third-base coach from 2001-04.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.