MLB Spring Training 2012: Shelley Duncan Fights for Starting Job

Bill FordCorrespondent IIIMarch 2, 2012

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 27:  Shelley Duncan #47 of the Cleveland Indians swings and breaks his bat against the Detroit Tigers during a MLB game at Comerica Park on September 27, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians left fielder and first baseman Shelley Duncan will fight during spring training for a starting job with the major-league ball club.

Last season, Duncan went from being a bench player to one of the best sluggers on the Indians toward the end of the season.

Cleveland manager Manny Acta said that although Duncan performed well, the Tribe can't simply hand a full-time job over to him based on a short amount of playing time.

Center fielder Grady Sizemore is out with a lower back strain and is expected to miss out on Opening Day. That could open a possibility of shifting Michael Brantley from left field to center field, creating an opening in left field.

The Indians view Duncan as a backup role for left field, first base and as a designated hitter. If he demonstrates a strong performance in the Cactus League, he could have a chance of consideration for the left-field position.

In 2011, he played in 76 games, hitting 11 home runs and 47 RBI with a .260 batting average. In the month of September, he played in 26 games, hitting seven home runs, seven doubles and 23 RBI with a .265 batting average.

Acta acknowledged that Duncan is a valuable asset to the team, and is expected to be a designated hitter against lefty pitchers. He is also expected to play some games in left field along with an occasional appearance at first base.

Duncan's performance cast the spotlight on him last year, and he has the opportunity to take advantage of the potential benefits that it presents.

Even if he doesn't earn the starting role in left field this season, he should be proud of his accomplishments and his strong work ethic.