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MANTO PERPLEXED BY LATEST DEMOTION TO HERD

No disrespect intended, Bisons fans. Jeff Manto loves Buffalo. He just doesn't want to be playing baseball here.

He thought his Aug. 7 callup to the Cleveland Indians was a one-way ticket, just as it was last year when he joined the Tribe in August and stayed all the way through Game Seven of the World Series.

It wasn't. Despite going 6 for 20 with a pair of home runs, Manto was designated for assignment by Cleveland for the second time this year. After clearing waivers, he's back in Buffalo.

Manto was 2 for 14 with four walks in four games since his return, but hit his 20th homer of the season as the Bisons beat Syracuse, 6-1, Thursday night to earn a doubleheader split.

This trip to Buffalo is a perplexing one to the fan favorite, who turned 34 Sunday. Manto homered and added a two-run single in a 5-1 win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 8, the day he rejoined the Indians, and figured he had seen the last of Buffalo for this season. Especially since Tribe first baseman Jim Thome was felled by a broken pinky in that game.

"I guess it was my own fault to think that," Manto said. "I thought the chips would fall exactly as last year. There was no miscommunication on their (the Indians') part. I just thought I got my at-bats (in Buffalo) and was going to stay."

Manto's home run was his 40th as a Bison, making him just the sixth modern-era player in franchise history to reach that number. It came on the first pitch he saw in the fourth from Syracuse's Billy Koch, who was making his Triple-A debut.

"I was hitting off the catcher (Alex Delgado) tonight because I hadn't seen him (Koch)," Manto said. "Alex knows how to call a game and I knew he wasn't going to mess around and get behind me. The way he blew fastballs by me the first at-bat (when Manto struck out), I knew he was going to try more of the same."

Bison fans are fortunate to see Manto adding to his power numbers. He could have have declared free agency or retired rather than return.

"I was extremely frustrated," he admitted. "I wasn't going to come back unless I thought I wanted to play. I'm glad I got that frustration out of my system. When you love this game, you have to love the times that are awful and this is one of them."

With Thome out, the Indians have Cecil Fielder and ex-Bison Richie Sexson -- who entered Thursday's game with a .366 batting average -- as right-handed power hitters to play first base.

Cleveland then decided it wanted a power-hitting second baseman and called up Torey Lovullo from Buffalo, the decision that put Manto on the way back down again. The Tribe wants Manto only to play first and third, although he has played second in past years.

Manto has been designated for assignment three times this year, twice by Cleveland and once by Detroit after the Tigers claimed him off waivers. He's been understanding about it the first two times. Not so now.

"This last one floored me," Manto said. "They wanted a left-handed second baseman with pop and I was happy for Torey because he's worked just as hard as everybody else and there's nobody happier for Richie than I am. He's come so far and he's not starry-eyed anymore. He knows he belongs."

Thursday's home run figures to be a good sign for Manto, who's trying to regain his power stroke after some inactivity near the end of his Cleveland stint. And still trying to figure out what the Tribe is doing.

"Cleveland is an unpredictable organization but in a good way," he said. "Every time they make a move, it's to better the team. They're worried about making their team better because they want to win it. Once you understand that, you can accept it."

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