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Ryan Garko

Very quietly, Ryan Garko has surged past the .300 mark in Buffalo; he's now hitting .303/.383/.512 for the Bisons. Ryan has been mainly a first baseman since the AAA All-Star Break, which looks to me like a sign that he's being groomed as the Indians' first baseman next year. But can he help Cleveland this year? After all, Ben Broussard has been benched in favor of Jeff Liefer, who isn't much of a short-term solution much less a long-term fix.

Judging by recent experience, Garko probably wouldn't make that big an impact. It took Travis Hafner several shots at the bigs to finally stick, Jhonny Peralta needed another full season in the minors to make it, and Victor Martinez wasn't that great until his first full season. Heck, Brandon Phillips still hasn't recovered from his awful 2003 debut. I guess what I'm getting at is that regardless of Garko's talent, he's going to go through an adjustment period. Of course the question does remain as whether adjustment-period Garko would be better than the alternatives.

Grady Sizemore is probably a good example of a player adjusting to a new league and still being a productive player: he hit .246/.333/.406 last season for the Indians, getting playing time after Jody Gerut injured his knee. And the bonus is that he came into 2005 ready to shine at the major-league level. If the Indians think that Garko has a good shot at being the team's first baseman in 2006, now might be a great time to get him some experience. Even if he hits .250/.320/.420 or something like that, you know that you probably could have done worse.

There are other things at play, though, besides a pure evaluation question; Garko isn't on the 40-man roster,  and the Indians don't want to bring him on if they don't have to. Once a guy like Garko makes the roster, he's not coming off. On the other hand, a Jeff Liefer is serving as not only a stopgap, but someone you can waive and not worry about. Also, by bringing up Garko before September 1st, the Indians would burn an option (EDIT: This is incorrect; if the Indians keep him on the 25-man roster for the remainder of the season, they don't use an option.) I don't think this matters that much given Garko's polished swing, but the Indians are probably trying to squeeze a couple good weeks out of Liefer/Broussard/Hernandez until they can add Garko once the rosters expand.

Adding to this is the fact that the Indians still have a shot at making the playoffs, albeit a lesser one after last weekend's sweep at the hands of the Devil Rays. Do you want players in the lineup with more experience, or a prospect who hasn't faced any pitching at the major-league level? The Buffalo Bisons are also in a playoff push, and taking away Garko, one of the team's best hitters, wouldn't sit well with the Buffalo fanbase. It shouldn't be the overriding factor in a decision, but it's also something a GM should consider.

So now you see why a simple question from the standpoint of a fan can get so complicated when brought before a general manager. Given the circumstances, it's probably best to make do with the trio now in place, and then once September hits, you can bring Garko up without any drawbacks.