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Desert Drive: Lou Marson scoring points as Cleveland catcher

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Stew lieutenant David Brown has shifted to Arizona, and his desert swing took him Sunday to Goodyear, home to (among another) the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe is still looking to fill Victor Martinez's(notes) chest protector with a replacement after last season's deadline deal with the Boston Red Sox. Lou Marson(notes) (middle) seems like the guy for the job.

What's the word, Cuyahoga Stewies?

The Indians got rained out Sunday (as did most of Cactus practice), but that just meant we had more opportunities to bother the players inside the clubhouse. Tucked between the locker for Jake Westbrook(notes) and a corner of the room was Marson, who has had designs on the Indians catching spot after coming from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee(notes) trade.

Well, considering Martinez is long gone to the Red Sox (and didn't that make Indians fans happy?), Marson also has a pretty good shot to be catcher of the present.

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Marson, who grew up in nearby Scottsdale, said he didn't emulate other catchers growing up because he played third base until his senior season in high school.

"I was a big Chipper Jones(notes) fan," Marson said. "Still am."

Marson jumped in behind the plate after the starting catcher failed some classes and was suspended from the team.

"We didn't have anybody else and I was a pretty good athlete," Marson said. "Had no clue as to what I was doing, though I had always wanted to catch.

"I was always like, 'Lemme catch! Lemme catch!' So finally, [my coach] put me back there one winter, one time in winter ball. It worked out, I guess."

Marson took to catching because it helps him focus on the entire game and get bogged down mentally with hitting.

"I like being active and not just thinking about my at-bat while standing over there at third," Marson said.

A fourth-round pick of the Phillies in 2004, Marson became one of their top prospects after big back-to-back seasons in '07 and '08. That, plus Marson's career line in the minors — .274/.369/.386 — helped him shoot to the majors.

After playing for Team USA at the Beijing Olympics (and meeting President Bush), Marson homered in his first major league game in 2008 and spent much of April 2009 with the Phillies.

But, with veteran Carlos Ruiz(notes) a better option on a team going for a championship, Marson became part of the trade package for Lee.

"I knew Philly wanted to make a move and do something; they wanted to get to the World Series, a big-market team that wanted to win now," Marson said. "So I wasn't surprised, to be honest."

New Cleveland manager Manny Acta said Marson, so far, is as good as advertised.

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"He's a guy who's been highly touted since he started with the Phillies and it shows," said Acta, who wouldn't say if Marson or Wyatt Toregas(notes) has the inside track to start ahead of probable backup Mike Redmond(notes). Top prospect Carlos Santana(notes) is also lurking in the minors for his call to the bigs.

Sandy Alomar Jr.(notes), who caught a few games for the Indians once upon a time, says Marson's athleticism serves him well behind the plate.

From MLB.com:

"A kid that strong, the most important thing is defense," said Alomar, the Tribe's first-base coach. "That's what I focus on. He seems pretty comfortable back there, with quick feet.

"He's got the tools to be a complete catcher."

Over the winter, the Indians gave Marson video, not only of his own pitchers, but of some key hitters in the AL Central. He watched, but ...

"You can pick up certain things from video but I personally think you have to go out there and experience it yourself, trust your instincts and go with your gut," Marson said. "Really, it comes down to going with the pitcher's strength. That's what I believe. Maybe I'm wrong and it's something I need to talk to Redmond about."

Moving obviously was a good move for Marson, so he'd get a chance to play. It's too bad, though, Marson just missed out on a ring and a World Series share.

Except, he didn't miss.

"I ended up getting a ring in '08, a World Series ring," said Marson, who also got some bonus money. "And [soon] I'm getting a National League [championship] ring from last year because I was up most of April.

"Yeah, they took care of me over there. That was nice of them; they're a first-class organization. [Team president] David Montgomery did the right thing by me."

Does Marson ever wonder what his path would have been like if the starting catcher of Coronado High hadn't flunked himself off the team?

"Mmm, sometimes, yeah," Marson said. "I don't think like that too often. Probably would have happened anyway. My coach did the right thing, moving me back there."

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