Cleveland's Revamped Relief Corps

There's really no way to put this lightly: the Indians' bullpen sucked last season. The only relief in Cleveland came when the season ended at a terrible 78-84 record.

Baseball Prospectus ranked the '06 Indians bullpen among the bottom 3% of all teams since 1959, and with good reason. Cleveland relievers posted a major league-worst 27 saves - blowing 21 of them - had a hand in 27 losses, and allowed almost half of their inherited runners to score.

In order to keep pace with Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota in the brutal AL Central, the Indians will have to be able to count on their relievers to protect late-game leads and close out wins.

GM Mark Shapiro, who just got a fat raise in a 5-year extension, spent most of the winter rebuilding Cleveland's 'pen. He signed closer Joe Borowski, veteran right-hander Roberto Hernandez and lefty Aaron Fultz as free agents, for a combination of quality, experience and depth - three things that went unseen a year ago.

Keith Foulke was brought in to compete for the closer's job as well, but the right-hander retired before reporting to camp.

Borowski, who had 36 saves for Florida last season, will begin 2007 at the closer spot with Hernandez and Rafael Betancourt as the primary set-up men. Fultz will mostly be used against lefties while Matt Miller and Fernando Cabrera will work the sixth and seventh innings. Jason Davis' role will be as long reliever.

Tom Mastny and Juan Lara will be the first two called up from AAA Buffalo, if and when they are needed.

42-year-old veteran Hernandez, who looks like he just wants to dance in that photo, has 326 career saves - 10th all-time - in more than 900 appearances. Since emerging from California's organization in 1986, he's pitched for eight different clubs, including two stints with the New York Mets.

He had 26 saves for the Kansas City Royals in 2002, but just six in the past four years. He wasn't hired for ninth inning outs, though, rather for mentorship to the youngsters on the staff... that's one expensive mentor.

[Boston Herald] | [Cleveland Indians]


Kerrie said...

I just wanna dance!

Megs said...

Damn. you beat me to it Kerrie.

Anonymous said...

In all seriousness ladies - and as much as I HATE Cleveland, they're not going to just roll over and play dead in the ALC as they have done for the last few years. Shapiro has made that division even tougher, to where its anyone's title. Well besides the Royals, of course.

Sooze said...

I agree wholeheartedly, anon. As a Twins fan, it worries me a bit. But not too much. A club must simply score more runs than the other to win games... and I don't see the Indians scoring too many more runs than they did last season.