Cleveland Indians: Manny Acta Faces a Tough Decision When Grady Sizemore Returns

Cory HolibaughCorrespondent IApril 12, 2011

NEW YORK - APRIL 18:  Grady Sizemore #24 of the Cleveland Indians on the field during batting practice prior to the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

If you watch Cleveland Indians baseball or "you are in the Tribe," then you know the Indians are on a hot start in 2011.

After winning eight straight, including sweeps of the Red Sox and Mariners, the Indians are looking like they want to take charge of an AL Central that is up for grabs.

From solid starting pitching to the lock down bullpen, from the timely hitting to the great defense, the Indians are seemingly doing it all.

Coming into the season, not one person expected this.

Most people had the Indians finishing fourth to last in the AL Central and even though that remains to be seen, it is apparent the Indians won't go down without a fight this season—which, as a fan, is great news.

An interesting thing to point out this season, though, is the remarkable play of Grady Sizemore's replacement, Michael Brantley.

Acquired in the CC Sabathia deal, Brantley showed flashes of greatness when he was called up in late 2009. 2010 didn't show the same promise.

After being demoted to Triple A midseason for his lack of production, Brantley was called back up and did slightly better.

Either way, that is the past and it looks like Brantley came into 2011 ready to prove himself. Heading into Spring Training, many thought as Brantley as a bottom of the lineup guy who was projected to play left field.

Then Sizemore had a setback and Manny Acta decided he wanted to see what he had in Brantley. He moved Brantley to centerfield, obviously, but moved him to leadoff.

In his role this season, Brantley has flourished. At .306, Brantley is one of the four starting Erie Warriors batting above the .300 mark. He is leading the team with two stolen bases and has yet to be caught running. He is also leading the team with five walks and three doubles.

An impressive OBP of .381, it seems as if the Indians finally have a conventional leadoff hitter. One who strikeouts very few and gets on base by all means necessary and will establish himself on the base paths.

Brantley is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak to start the season. He has reached safely multiple times in six out of the nine games he has played—sounds like a leadoff hitter.

What is intriguing is what Acta plans on doing with Sizemore when he returns sometime in the next few weeks. It is obvious Sizemore will not be leading off for the Tribe, nor will he bat in the two hole due to the dominance of Asdrubal Cabrera this season.

Sizemore could transition into the three spot where Shin Soo Choo has struggled, or Santana and Hafner could each move up a spot and Sizemore could bat fifth or sixth alongside Choo.

Interestingly enough, Acta likes Orlando Cabrera in the sixth spot in the lineup and for good reason. Orlando is on a tear in his first year with the Tribe.

Sizemore could also transition into where his replacements have been batting so far this season at seven. Austin Kearns and Travis Buck have tried to make impacts, but have yet to do so, both batting well under .200.

This leaves Matt LaPorta and Jack Hannahan in the eighth and nine spot. Both have displayed power this season, having two a piece. However, both are unproven and should contribute more before a switch in the lineup is made.

In the end, Acta has a big decision. His club is winning without Sizemore, Brantley is on a tear and Sizemore might not even be the Sizemore of old.

On top of that, Acta has barely coached Sizemore. Putting Grady at the back end of the lineup to let him prove himself may end up being the best decision for this club.

Nonetheless, the Indians are 8-2 and play their second game against the Angels in almost three hours from now.

Let's see Carmona shut 'em down again.